Liberty Mutual Insurance v. Nielsen, Panelized Structures (Las Vegas, NV)
A Las Vegas jury yesterday awarded almost $20M in damages to a man who was run over by a 14,000+ pound Sky-Trak 5028 rough terrain forklift.
Tom Novick was pinned beneath one of the forklift's tires as the driver, Floyd Nielsen, was parking the machine, which slowly rolled backward across Mr. Novick's entire body.
Plaintiff attorney John Shook (Shook & Stone) detailed for the jury the harm suffered by Mr. Novick, including multiple catastrophic injuries, severe pain, total disability, loss of his spleen, two amputations of his right leg, permanent brain damage, and more. Mr. Shook detailed approximately $1.34M in past and future medical costs, and approximately $880K in past and future wages that Mr. Novick would have earned as a roofer. For past pain and suffering Mr. Shook suggested $1 per minute ($3.5M). For future pain and suffering, Mr. Shook suggested 50-cents per minute based on Mr. Novick's expected life span ($8M).
Representing plaintiff Liberty Mutual Insurance, Elizabeth Foley (Law Offices of Elizabeth Foley) told the jury that Panelized Structures did not have an adequate commitment to safety. For example, the forklift driver, who was the brother-in-law of Panelized Structures' owner, was promoted to safety director after the most serious injury in company history. In addition, said Ms. Foley, Panelized Structures used temporary workers without training them, and did not respond to the accident with a proper safety alert or incident report.
For the defense, Eugene Wait (Wait Law Firm), told the jury that Mr. Novick's recovery was remarkable -- he had been walking for six years, and had been employed doing janitorial work at Walmart, working around his disabilities. Mr. Wait predicted that additional surgeries were not likely, because Mr. Novick was doing pretty well and was not a quitter. There simply was not an adequate foundation for the damages requested by the plaintiff, said Mr. Wait.
The jury awarded past medical expenses of approximately $1.5M, future medical expenses of approximately $7M, past lost earning capacity of approximatley $171K, future lost earning capacity of approximately $514K, past pain and suffering of approximately $2.6M, and future pain and suffering of approximately $7.9M. The total damage award was $19,854,217.
The jury assigned 20% of the fault to Mr. Novick, and 80% of the fault to the forklift driver and his employer, Panelized Structures.