$950,000: Tow Truck Backs Up Over Man Peforming Maintenance On Underground Gas Tanks

CASE DESCRIPTION: Plaintiff was performing maintenance on service station equipment when the Defendant backed his tow truck into the Plaintiff. The tow truck struck and rolling over the Plaintiffs lower body. Plaintiff brought suit to recovery medical expenses and loss of income. The Defendants disputed liability and the actual damages incurred by the Plaintiff.

RESULT: $950,000.00 total settlement

Plaintiff Gaylan F. was employed by Joe R. to perform maintenance on service station equipment. On August 3, 1995, Plaintiff was performing maintenance and repair on underground tanks at a service station in Carson, California. Plaintiff was kneeling on the service island near the pumps, pulling a tube out of a tank at the time of the accident. Defendant Angel R. was operating a tow truck owned by Valerie B. d/b/a Arrow Auto Towing. Defendant Angel R. looked into his rear view mirror, noticed a safety cone, but did not see anyone behind him. Defendant Angel R., without checking further, then proceeded to back up the tow truck, striking Plaintiff Gaylan F. and rolling over Plaintiff’s legs, buttocks and lower back, causing internal injuries and numerous fractures.

Plaintiffs contend that Defendant was unable to see where he was backing his vehicle and failed to provide any safety mechanism, i.e. a spotter or back-up warning signal, to ensure that he was operating the vehicle in a safe manner.

Experts for the Plaintiff supported the argument that the Defendants did not follow ordinary safety procedures. The experts also contended that Plaintiff will be unemployable more than 20 hours per week due to his orthopedic and gastrointestinal injuries. Plaintiff would only be able to perform mild sedentary activities and would require the ability to get up and move around often to get his leg comfortable and to go to the bathroom often. He would not be able to perform any type of physical labor.

The Defendants disputed liability by arguing that Plaintiff failed to follow standard safety procedures. They claim he should have put up a barrier or safety cones while he was working on the service station gasoline pumps to provide information to vehicles around that a workman was in that particular spot. Defense experts supported these claims by stating that Plaintiff should have avoided the accident, or had safety barriers and cones. They also claimed that Plaintiff will be employable after rehabilitation training, and Plaintiff was remaining unemployed only for purposes of “secondary gain”.

TYPE OF CASE: Truck vs. Pedestrian

INJURIES: Internal injuries and numerous fractures.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 8/3/95 in Carson, California

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: Husband – 54 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION: Husband was a Service Station Equipment Mechanic.

Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiffs – Gaylan & Vanna F.

Also C. Thomas McDonald
For Plaintiffs

Wayne R Sims & Ralph F. Popelar
For Defendants – Arrow Auto Towing, Valerie B. & Angel R.

Steven L. Rice
For Defendant – Intervenor Unicare Insurance Company

DEFENDANT INSURANCE CO.: Reliance Insurance Company