Type of action: Personal injury
Injuries alleged: Spinal cord injury, incomplete quadriplegia, fractured vertebrae, a large scalp laceration, concussion, loss of consciousness and left fibular fracture
Tried before: Mediation
Name of judge or mediator: Judge Thomas Shadrick (Ret.)
Special damages: Medical expenses of $928,247.05; Lost earning capacity of $239,920; Life care plan costs of $8,548,257
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Attorney for plaintiff (and city): J. Michael Sharman, Culpeper
Description of case: While working as a contractor on a customer’s farm-office, the 55-year-old plaintiff was on a rented hydraulic construction lift operated by one of defendant supplier’s employees, when an abrupt and unexpected move of the lift threw the plaintiff off the lift and caused him to fall 15 feet onto concrete, resulting in loss of consciousness, fractured vertebrae, incomplete quadriplegia and multiple other injuries.
Air ambulance first took the plaintiff for emergency treatment and a few weeks of stabilization in a Virginia hospital. Air ambulance next flew the plaintiff to an out-of-state hospital specializing in spinal cord injuries, where he had monthslong treatment. Upon return to Virginia, the plaintiff received weeks of therapy in residence at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.
The rented hydraulic construction lift was built to lift materials, not people, but the plaintiff and one of defendant supplier’s employees rode on the lift in order to help move the heavy and awkward material onto the second story area where it was to be installed. The lift had no handholds and no belts to secure anyone who did ride the lift. Defendant supplier’s employee was able to stay on the lift when the plaintiff fell.
Predictably, the defense was contributory negligence and assumption of risk, either one of which, under Virginia law, would be a complete barrier to any recovery by the plaintiff.
After balancing the law, the gravity and permanence of the plaintiff’s injuries, and the unpredictable nature of trial juries, the compromise settlement of $2.6 million was able to be reached.
J. Michael Sharman, counsel for plaintiff, provided case information.[022-T-212]