Work Injury Verdicts

Work injuries unfortunately occur every day. Some are minor and some are serious; most are covered by workers compensation. Whether an accident occurs on a construction site or unexpectedly in an office, people injured at work have different remedies available to them than those who suffer similar injuries at home, in a public place, or while visiting a local business.

Although the workers compensation system was intended to streamline the process of compensating workers for employment-related injuries and eliminate the need for protracted litigation and animosity between employees and employers, the fact is that insurance companies-whether workers compensation insurance or liability insurance-like to keep their money. Thus, many work injury claims must proceed to administrative hearings, or even to court.

Below are some work injury verdicts and settlements gathered from news outlets around the country.*

*Results taken from recent news articles. Results not typical. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Commercial Fisherman Wins $1.98 Million Verdict

A life-long Florida crab fisherman was awarded a $1.98 million personal injury verdict for injuries he sustained when his boat hit a dredge pipe that floated loose from a dredging company's operation.

As a result of the crash, the man had a herniated disc in his lower back that couldn't be surgically fixed. The jury agreed that the 51-year-old fisherman was permanently disabled. The man can't get back on a boat due to his back, which is his livelihood.

"He wants to find something he can do, but that's going to be tough," his attorney told a local newspaper. "This is a guy who, for 35 years, spent six days a week on the water and even had 600 of his own crab traps out at one time."

The verdict will be paid by insurance companies representing the dredging company.

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Class Action Suit over Overtime, Work-Break Pay Settlement Reached

A class action settlement was reached between Fastenal Co. and former employees who sued the company for unpaid overtime wages and work-break pay. According to estimates made in October 2007 by an attorney for the plaintiffs, more than 2,000 employees - current and former - are entitled to back pay from as early as 2003. Although Fastenal has denied any wrongdoing, they entered the settlement to avoid litigation and trial costs. The lawsuit was originally filed by two former assistant general managers of Fastenal stores. They claimed that even though their classification exempted them from state and federal overtime laws, their non-managerial duties entitled them to overtime pay.

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$4.8 Million Verdict for fired Pipefitters Upheld

September 16, 2008

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in favor of 11 pipefitters and upheld a $4.8 million verdict. The fired men claimed they were let go for raising safety concerns at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Nine years ago, the workers sued Fluor Federal Services of Richland, a contractor at the nuclear site, claiming that they were laid off after refusing to install a valve they believed to be too weak for its job. In 2005, a Benton County Superior Court jury awarded the men damages, ranging from $89,700 to more than $553,000. The Fluor Federal Services appealed, arguing that the damage awards were excessive. On September 4, the high court rejected the argument, saying that the awards were supported by evidence.

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Family Awarded $7 million in Verdict of Ross Man's Asbestos Death

Seven million dollars in damages was awarded to the family of Alphonse Tripoli, who died after being exposed to asbestos while working for Koppers Co. Inc., Dravo Corp. and Fisher Scientific International Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. An Allegheny County jury found Koppers Co., Inc. responsible for 40 percent of the damages, Dravo Corp. and Fisher Scientific responsible for 10 percent each, and the remaining 40 percent of the damages to be split among other defendants, which are mostly companies that made and sold asbestos products. Tripoli worked on and off as a union contractor at all three sites beginning in 1968, and although Koppers knew that the sites contained asbestos, they failed to warn him of the dangers. In a separate case in 2006, an Allegheny County judge ruled that Koppers knew about the danger of asbestos since 1918. Tripoli died on January, 20, 2006, six months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma; his wife and son soon filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

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Iranian-American Engineer Awarded $14.876 Million for Asbestos Exposure

A Los Angeles Country jury gave Amanollah Shahabi $13.2 million for pain and suffering and $1.676 million in economic damages - a total of $14.876 million dollars - for exposure to asbestos that caused his malignant mesothelioma. Shahabi worked for over 30 years at oil refineries, including oil complexes in Iran and pre-commissioning and commissioning refineries for National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). His work exposed him to asbestos-coated and asbestos-containing parts since 1951. In June 2007, Shahabi was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. In three days, the jury found Fluor Corporation and other Fluor-affiliated entities negligent in their engineering procurement and construction of refineries. They found Shahabi a "sophisticated user" of the equipment because of his education and training when considering manufacturers John Crane and Fisher's liability.

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BP Continues Settlements for Workers Injured in Oil Refinery Blast

BP Plc, the second-largest oil company in Europe, has finalized settlements with four more workers who have filed lawsuits over an oil refinery blast that took place in Texas in 2005. With the announcement of the latest settlements, BP has now settled nearly all of the more than 4,000 lawsuits filed against it in conjunction with the blast, which took the lives of 15 workers and injured hundreds. Windows were broken up to five miles away from the blast's impact. BP has set aside $2.1 billion for litigation, and faced potential punitive damages at trial in the billions of dollars; the terms of the latest settlements were undisclosed, as all the settlements have been. Only 10 lawsuits remain that could go to trial in September if not settled.

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Exxon Employee Awarded $1 Million for Hand Injury in Unsafe Machine

Vickie Hall was awarded $1 million from a jury in the 60th District Court in Texas for a lawsuit claiming that a machine at her job with ExxonMobil that cut off three of her fingers was unsafe; she blamed the oil company for negligence. Hall was cleaning up near a piece of equipment with an exposed rotor that had been altered. She was reportedly cautioned of the danger of the machine, but did not heed the warning. The defense claimed that Hall "wasn't paying attention to what she was doing." The jury found both Hall and ExxonMobil equally at fault for the incident. As a result, Hall was given $367,000 in lost wages, $300,000 in physical pain and impairment, $150,000 for her disfigurement, $150,000 in mental anguish damages, and $70,000 in medical expenses.

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$9.5 Million to Wyoming Man for Mine Injury Leading to Paralysis

The Wyoming Supreme Court upheld a jury award of $9.46 million granted to a coal miner who was paralyzed in a mining accident at the Black Thunder Mine in Campbell County. Miner Les Butts was injured when a rock fell on a piece of machinery he was operating in January 2002. A jury previously awarded him $18 million and his two sons $2 million from Thunder Basin Coal Co., his employer, but that portion of the award was erased because the company pays into the state worker's compensation program, making it immune to employee lawsuits. Rather, the mine manager and the safety manager were found to be 18 percent and 25 percent at fault, respectively; the nearly $9.5 million comes from their portion of the damages.

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$6.5 Million to Family of Army Private for Electrocution

A federal appeals court upheld a previous jury verdict of $6.5 million for the estate of Private Van Ryan Marcum, who died in 2004 after being electrocuted while leaning against the metal wall of a latrine at Fort Benning in Georgia. The defendant in the lawsuit was The Shaw Group Inc., a private contractor which was under contract to demolish several abandoned latrines at the base. After an investigation, it was revealed that there was a wiring short that was sending current through the entire building, and that Shaw was at fault for not maintaining the latrine as part of its contract. The judge ruled that Shaw was 25 percent at fault, leading to the $6.5 million verdict. The US Army was determined to be 75 percent at fault, but was not included as part of this lawsuit.

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$2.25 Million Settlement to Mother for Wrongful Death of Son in Gas Explosion

The mother of a masonry worker who was accidentally killed in an explosion while performing construction work to build a pork processing plant has received a settlement of $2.25 million to resolve a wrongful death lawsuit. Melinda Fisher filed the suit against the plumbing contractor, the food plant and the construction management firm that employed her son, 24-year-old Andrew Bauer. Investigators determined that the explosion occurred due to gas leaking from an uncapped valve. Fourteen other people were injured in the explosion, and many of the injured survivors have pending lawsuits for personal injuries.

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Police Officer Settles for $130,000 over Accidental Shooting During Training

A police officer with the Elmira, New York police force reached a $130,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit he brought against the city after being shot with live ammunition during a police training exercise. Joseph Miller, Sr., was shot in the arm in 2003, with real bullets and not practice rounds, as an investigation discovered. As a result of the lawsuit, the department made some changes to safety procedures to avoid similar accidents in the future. Most of the $130,000 in the settlement will be paid by an insurance policy held by the city.

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$19 million awarded for worker's death

A New Jersey Superior Court jury recently awarded $19.2 million to the widow of a man who died of a job-related lung disease in 2002. Roger Fuccilli was a railroad car repairman for the New Jersey Transit for 18 years and was employed by Central Railroad of New Jersey for 18 months before that. In the course of his duties, Fuccilli engaged in welding, sanding, painting and repairing brakes using asbestos and silica products in addition to breathing metal dust and welding fumes. Being exposed to these harmful materials caused Fuccilli to be diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2000. He later died in 2002. The jury awarded Catherine Fuccilli $4.1 million for Roger's pain and suffering and another $15.1 million for his wrongful death.

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$2.7 million settlement received for power plant injury

A coal handler recently received a settlement of about $2.7 million after he suffered a severe injury at an Eastman Kodak Co. power plant. Michael Beasley was injured when his left arm was trapped in a conveyer belt. Beasley underwent an unsuccessful experimental surgery to restore feeling and movement in his arm.

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$1.8 million awarded for forklift injury

A California state appeals court recently affirmed a $1.8 million jury award to a forklift operator who lost a leg in an accident in 2003. Eugenio Feliciano was severely injured when a tire on a Toyota Series 7 forklift split and caused the machine to topple over, crushing his leg. Feliciano presented evidence that the Series 7 forklifts used the same tires as conventional models that do not have the "system of active stability" mechanism. Toyota's SAS mechanism puts greater lateral force on forklift tires, thus, the burden of the verdict was put upon Toyota.

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$1.2 million settlement reached for prison stabbing

A federal court recently approved that a $1.2 million settlement be distributed to the family of a prison guard who was stabbed to death by an inmate at the Chino State Prison in Los Angeles, California. Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr. was allegedly stabbed by inmate Jon Christopher Blaylock in 2005. The stabbing occurred in the reception area of the prison, where inmates are housed while awaiting transfers to other prisons. Blaylock was serving a 75-year sentence for the attempted murder of a peace officer. Gonzalez was not wearing a protective vest at the time of the attack. The Gonzalez family alleged that the prison system administrators contributed to his death by failing to issue him a stab-proof vest and by failing to properly house Blaylock.

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$39.5 million Awarded for Utility Pole Injury

A Colorado jury recently awarded $39.5 million to Xcel lineman Andrew Blood who was paralyzed when a utility pole collapsed upon him in 2004. The jury found Qwest, the owner of the pole, responsible for the injury. Apparently, the company had not inspected any of its 150,000 poles in over 40 years.

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$30.3 million awarded to Injured Worker

A New York State jury awarded $30.3 million to a worker who sustained a career-ending injury after falling from a ladder. Peter Bissell suffered severe spinal and other injuries, suffers partial paralysis of both legs, and now walks with the assistance of braces and canes. Bissell's doctors have declared him permanently disabled. The jury ordered carriers for the former McGonigle & Hilger Roofing Co. to pay the sum of the verdict.

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$4.5 million to railroad worker

A Hennepin County jury in Minnesota awarded $4.5 million to a Montana railroad worker whose hand was crushed while working in South Dakota. Steve Tennant of Helena claimed he lost the use of his right hand when a load of wood shifted and crushed it as he tried to push a piece of wood back onto a Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. rail car in Rapid City, South Dakota. Although the incident occurred in another state, the judge of Minneapolis said Tennant was allowed to sue under the federal Employer's Liability Act "anywhere the railroad lays track." The main issue in the case was whether the wood was sticking out on the rail car. While Tennant was in the hospital, the company allegedly had someone cut the protruding wood from the railcar to dispute the lawsuit. The jury accepted Tennant's claims that the company lied to protect itself.

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$4 Million to Injured Construction Worker

A Missouri state appeals court affirmed a $4 million verdict against Empire District Electric Co. in favor of a construction worker who was injured at a Webb City job site in 1995. Ed English and another construction worker, Jason Daniel Hynes were severely injured when the metal scaffolding they were attempting to steady on a forklift came in contact with a 69,000 volt overhead power line. The two men sued the power company in the circuit court, claiming negligence in eliminating, guarding against or warning about the hazard. Hynes' case went to trial in 2001 and was settled on undisclosed terms before a jury verdict was reached. The jury found Empire liable to English for injury to the brain and nervous system.

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$101 million to Garage Collapse Victims

An Atlantic City jury awarded $101 million to 36 plaintiffs after the Tropicana Casino garage collapsed in 2003, killing four men and injuring two dozen others. The incident occurred while workers were pouring concrete on the top deck of the parking garage during construction. The results of the investigation suggest that the accident occurred as a result of a flawed project design, execution and oversight. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the contractors had failed to install critical steel connections between the garage decks and an outer wall, resulting in a weak support system to support the concrete decks. The lawsuit is described as the largest personal injury settlement in the region and may have been the largest construction-accident settlement in the nation.

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More than $1.8 Million Awarded to Injured Miner

A miner for the Rivers Edge Mining Co. in Madison, Wisconsin was awarded nearly $1.9 million after he continued working with a broken arm in 2003. George Peters broke his arm while working in an underground mine, and continued to work for four months after his injury. When his doctor said the arm was not healing properly, Peters took two months off to recover. Rivers Edge fired Peters. State law mandates that employers must reinstate employees that have returned from workers' compensation leave. The jury verdict included: $171,697 in back pay; $513,410 in money Peters would have earned; $200,000 for aggravation, inconvenience, humiliation, embarrassment and loss of dignity; and $1 million in punitive damages.

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$1.5 Million Settlement for Construction Injury

A construction worker fell off the elevated train tracks on an expressway in New York City. The worker suffered cervical and spinal cord damage and is still recovering after the fall. Attorneys for the injured worker filed suit against various companies responsible for the construction project. A settlement was reached which will pay $1.5 million that the injured employee can use to pay for medical bills and recover from this accident.

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$657,000 jury award in forklift accident

David and Debbie Thomas received a $657,000 award from a Virginia jury, as a result of injuries from an accident in a hardware store parking lot. David Thomas, a truck driver, was hurt when a hardware store employee operating a forklift accidentally dropped a bundle of 26-foot-long poles onto Thomas' leg. The Thomases claimed that the forklift operator was not appropriately trained or certified to do so.

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$6.4 Million to Family of Electrocuted Construction Worker

The family of Joseph Gilio of New York state has been awarded $6.4 million. The family sued the state of New York after Gilio, 29, was struck by an overhead power line while attempting to guide a steel plate into a trench. Judge Alton Waldon, Jr. found the state of New York to be 100% liable and awarded Gilio's family slightly more than $6.4 million for the state's negligence in not properly supervising Gilio's work project.

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$10.7 Million to Construction Worker for Brain Injury from Ladder Fall

A New York, NY jury granted $10.7 million to Rupert Natoo, a construction worker who claimed that he sustained a brain injury in a 10-foot fall from a ladder. Natoo alleged that the fall caused brain damage that has caused him to require constant supervision and assistance. Natoo claimed that he now has severe attention, concentration, cognitive function and memory problems. The jury found awarded $10,778,184 to Natoo, plus an additional $300,000 to his wife.

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$600k for Worker Exposed to Poisonous Gas on Oil Ship

Douglas O'Neill, 25, was awarded $600k by a U.S. District judge in Galveston, TX. O'Neill, a ship worker, was exposed to high levels of hydrogen sulfide while performing tank-gauging tests. O'Neill claimed that the hydrogen sulfide damaged his brain, lungs, heart and eyesight, and that his employer failed to provide safety equipment, training, and supervision of staff. The judge awarded O'Neill gross damages of $800,000, which was reduced $200,000 for his own liability in the accident.

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$1.1 Million for Injured Railroad Worker

A railroad carman for CSX Railroad in Grand Rapids, MI was awarded $1.1 million by a U.S. District Court jury for civil damages against the railroad. Reginald Booker, 55, had been employed by CSX Railroad for 24 years when he was nearly crushed underneath a rail car in 2003. The accident left him with severe injuries to his back and pelvis, requiring him to walk with a can, and he can no longer work. Booker claimed in his lawsuit that he had planned to retire from the company. The jury awarded booker $1.4 million but reduced the amount by 25 percent for Booker's "contributory negligence" in the accident.

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Family of Farmhand Gets $4.2 Million for Deadly Silo Incident

A jury in Columbia County, NY has awarded $4.2 million to the family of a farmhand who was killed from inhaling poisonous gas caused by decomposing grain while shoveling silage into a 60-foot corn silo. The silo had no ventilation system. Peter Stickler, 35, was overcome by gas fumes in 1998 while working on a dairy farm operated by the Fred Barringer family and owned by James and Nancy Fuller. The jury found both parties to be responsible for the incident.

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More than $300K to Injured Railroad Worker

A railroad worker who filed a work injury claim in 2001 and was accused by his company of filing a dishonest report and was subsequently fired has been awarded $300,000 by a jury in Billings, MT. George Treperinas of Havre, MT sued BNSF after they accused him of making false statements about a neck injury suffered on the job. Treperinas was out of work for more than two years and underwent therapy and surgery on his neck. In addition to the monetary award, the jury ordered the company to send a letter of apology addressing the mistreatment, misjudgment, and attacks on Treperinas' character in the letter.

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$2.9 million award in construction injury

A Massachusetts man received a $2.9 million award from a civil jury, after he was hurt in an accident while in the first hour of a new job. Chad Dunham fell through a clock tower's unsecured steel trap door and shattered his elbow. The award will go towards future pain and suffering, future expenses, and lost earnings.

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$2 million jury award in construction accident

A Philadelphia jury awarded $2 million to a man who was hurt when a load of wet concrete was accidentally poured on top of him. George LePera was working on a local construction site when the accident occurred, badly injuring his neck. While he is still able to act as a supervisor, LePera can no longer perform any physical labor.

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$4.2 million award in forklift death

A Maine woman received a $4.2 million jury award after her husband was killed in a forklift accident. Claire Brown argued that her husband died after the forklift's manufacturer failed to notify him of a design flaw. Thomas Brown died after getting caught between the forklift's console and a horizontal shelf.

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$1.7 million award for machinist injury

Lynette Williams, a Chicago area machinist, received a $1.7 million award in a personal injury lawsuit filed against Bodine Electric Co. Williams was injured on the job when a drill press slipped and caught her by the shirt sleeve, twisting and injuring her arm.

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$1.4 million verdict award in construction accident

Gerri Crocker received a $1.4 million jury award after her husband was killed in a construction accident. David Crocker was killed when he was run over by a truck delivering a crane to a construction site. Gerri Crocker sued Ed Emmons Steel Erectors. David Crocker had been working on construction of a hotel.

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$1.8 million settlement in training injury case

A Memphis Fire Department recruit received a $1.8 million settlement after he collapsed as a result of rigorous firefighter training exercises. James Coleman suffered permanent brain injury following a grueling series of exercises that included carrying fire hose up and down flights of stairs, running a mile with a 40-pound pack, and chopping blocks of wood. The city of Memphis admitted no wrongdoing, and settled the suit to avoid the additional expense of litigation.

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$7.8 million verdict in job injury case

James T. Drum received a $7.8 million jury award after he was injured on the job. Drum was standing on a wooden palette attached to a forklift when a piece of pipe began to fall. Drum attempted to catch the pipe section, but the weight pulled him from the palette. He fell on his head and was paralyzed from the waist down. The jury determined that Shaull Equipment and Supply Co. was primarily responsible for the unsafe working conditions that led to the accident.

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$887,000 award for construction accident

Fred Clark received an award of $887,000 after he was injured when a concrete truck ran into the form that he and a co-worker were standing on, causing it to collapse. Clark was forced to jump the three feet down with a 30-pound vibrator around his neck. The jump and awkward landing caused Clark to aggravate a pre-existing degenerative back condition. Clark argued that proper precautions were not made on the part of the construction company in order to save time.

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$8 million settlement for elevator injury

Thrush Construction and Suburban Elevator settled with electrician Michael Seay for $8 million after he was injured in a fall at work. While working on an elevator, Seay tripped over loose cables on the ground and fell down the shaft, landing on several large elevator springs and cinder blocks. He sustained spinal cord injuries and slight brain damage, affecting his nervous system and causing complications that will likely affect him for the rest of his life.

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$352,807 awarded for woodworking injury

A Connecticut jury awarded Mark Lingenheld $352,807.97 for injuries sustained when he was struck by a piece of wood shot out of a table shaper machine. Lingenheld was standing 19 feet from the machine, and the piece of wood struck him at about 150 mph, causing multiple fractures to his hand and requiring repeated surgery.

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