Type of action: Personal injury
Injuries alleged: Crush injury to legs and abdomen resulting in amputation of one leg above the hip joint and numerous abdominal surgeries, requiring a colostomy bag for nearly a year
Date resolved: 3/7/2022
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Attorneys for plaintiff (and city): Lee Livingston, Anthony Greene and Kyle McNew, Charlottesville; Phil Gardner, Martinsville
Description of case: This case involved a life-threatening and life-altering crush injury to a 21-year-old man in Southside Virginia during an amateur towing attempt of a stuck furniture delivery truck on a steep, muddy driveway. Plaintiff was a resident and good Samaritan who lived along the driveway. He asked if the truck driver and his helper needed help after the driver drove his truck off the side the driveway. After recruiting assistance from a nearby lumber mill — in the form of a front-end log loader — the plaintiff was crushed between the loader and the furniture truck when he stepped between the machines to connect them with a chain. Plaintiff survived but suffered an amputation of one leg above the hip joint and required a colostomy bag for nearly a year.
Plaintiff was a hard-working and good-natured young man who worked at a local flooring company and lived with his grandparents. Prior to his injury, plaintiff had earned various certifications for auto repair and maintenance and dreamed of being a mechanic and eventually running his own garage.
After a couple days of hard rain, the furniture delivery truck arrived to the plaintiff’s shared driveway to deliver furniture to plaintiff’s aunt, who lived at the top of the driveway. After first trying and failing to reverse up the driveway, the driver turned the truck around and gunned it up the hill to reach the top. Once the driver and his helper unloaded the furniture, instead of taking the time to turn the truck around at the top of the hill, the driver drove back down the driveway in reverse, without having the helper get out and spot him. The driver made it most of the way down the driveway before driving his passenger-side tires off the side of the road toward a small drop-off, causing the truck to become stuck.
Plaintiff and his grandfather approached the truck and asked if the driver needed help. The driver accepted their offer and, after a discussion with the driver about what to do, plaintiff and his grandfather drove down the road to seek assistance from a local lumber mill. The lumber mill sent an employee in a front-end loader to see if it could free the furniture truck. The driver of the front-end loader first tried to lift the truck from behind but was unsuccessful. Then the front-end loader pulled in front of the truck, uphill, to pull the truck out from the front. Plaintiff retrieved a chain from the front-end loader and walked to the front of the furniture truck to hook the chain to it while the truck driver sat in the driver’s seat preparing to get pulled out. As plaintiff knelt down to hook the chain to the truck, the front-end loader rolled down the driveway back toward the truck, pinning plaintiff between the two machines. The front-end loader driver was able to pull forward and free plaintiff, but not before plaintiff’s leg was mangled and his abdomen severely crushed.
After resolving all claims against the lumber mill pre-suit for its policy limits, plaintiff filed suit against the driver, helper and the furniture delivery company. His suit alleged negligence in getting the furniture truck stuck, failing to use a spotter when driving in reverse, and for enlisting the help of untrained bystanders to free the truck when the driver and helper knew that it was a job for trained professionals. The defense raised numerous liability and causation issues at the motion to dismiss stage. The court denied the defendants’ motion on all grounds but signaled that it may reconsider some grounds on a motion for summary judgment depending on the discovery record. In addition to the parties themselves, plaintiff’s counsel deposed nearly a dozen additional fact witnesses and employees of the delivery company. Plaintiff designated experts in a multitude of areas of expertise including liability experts in the fields of truck-driving, professional towing, and engineering and causation and damages experts in the fields of life-care planning, physical and rehabilitative medicine, vocational rehabilitation and prosthetics, in addition to identifying many of plaintiff’s treating healthcare providers. Defendants designated two experts in the field of engineering. All liability experts were deposed and the defendants filed a summary judgment motion, which plaintiff opposed. The summary judgment motion was argued to the court, but prior to a ruling the parties agreed to mediate the case. The case resolved confidentially soon after the mediation for $2,900,000.
Lee Livingston, plaintiff’s counsel, provided case information. [022-T-099]