$1,450,000 – Amputation

Award Amount: $1,450,000

Admiralty

Longshoreman Accident

Amount of settlement: $1.45 Million

Injuries alleged: Below the knee amputation, cognitive deficits

Name of case: Plaintiff, et al. v. Massachusetts Port Authority, et al.

Court/case#: Suffolk Superior Court, No. 95-4680-A

Tried before judge or jury: Jury

Judge: Charles M. Grabau

Special damages: $151,411

Amount of settlement: $1.45 Million

Date: Dec. 12, 1997

Highest offer: $1.45 Million

Most helpful expert: Jeffrey West, Wincester

Attorneys for plaintiff: Michael B. Latti and David J. Berg, Latti Associates, Boston

Attorney for defendant: Withheld

The 56-year-old plaintiff was employed as a longshoreman at a Boston terminal. The defendant owned, operated and maintained the terminal and the equipment, including the forklifts that were used by the longshoremen to load and discharge the cargo from the ship. A second defendant manufactured the forklifts that were used at the terminal to move the containers.

On Feb. 21, 1995, the plaintiff was directing the operator of the forklift into the garage. The plaintiff stopped at the forklift operator and then went over to the machine to speak to him. After talking with the operator, the plaintiff turned and walked away from the forklift. The operator observed the plaintiff walk to the rear of the machine and continued to observe him until he was out of sight. The operator then turned the wheel a full turn and proceeded ahead. As he did this, the tail swing of the machine ran over the plaintiff’s legs and feet.

Liability against the defendant focused on its failure to properly maintain the side rear view mirrors on the forklift. Specifically, if the mirrors were there, the operator would have seen the plaintiff in the tail swing of the forklift and never would have proceeded forward until the plaintiff was clear. The second defendant’s alleged liability was based on its failure properly to secure the mirror to the frame of the forklift and the lack of visibility for the operator.

The defendants’ principle defense was that the plaintiff had operated the forklift on a daily basis and knew or should have known of the dangers of the tail swing. Although the plaintiff acknowledged that he knew of the tail swing, he testified that he never knew the extent or magnitude of the tail swing.

The defendants also alleged that the accident was a result of forklift operator’s negligence. The defendants claimed that the operator was incompetent and proceeded ahead before the plaintiff was out of the way.

The plaintiff countered with that subsequent to the accident, the operator had been promoted to operate the largest crane in New England at the terminal.

Further, the defendants relied heavily on the testimony of the plaintiff’s supervisor who testified that the plaintiff stood in the tail swing of the machine and was looking directly at the forklift when it struck him. The plaintiff refuted this testimony by calling an expert, who made a scale drawing with overlays of the area of the accident.

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