A Georgia court has ordered a trucking company to pay the heirs of a worker $5.4 million. The worker was killed when he was run over by a dump truck.
Mack Pitts was working as a spotter/flag-man for Archer-Western Contractors at the Atlanta International Airport.
On June 14, 2007, he was directing trucks that had lined up to dump their loads of dirt.
Sarah Okoro, a driver for A & G Trucking, positioned her truck to back up without waiting for a signal from Pitts.
Pitts used his flags to give Okoro a stop signal and then turned his attention to another driver. Okoro ignored the signal and began backing up.
Other trucks sounded their horns to let Okoro know that Pitts was behind her truck, but she responded with an obscene hand gesture and continued to back up.
By the time Pitts realized Okoro’s truck was coming toward him, it was too late. The truck struck him, and Pitts died from his injuries.
Pitts’ heirs sued A & G Trucking for negligence.
At trial, testimony established that Okoro violated several safety rules immediately before she struck Pitts, including:
- entering the area before being signaled to do so by a spotter
- failing to remain still after the spotter directed her to stop
- backing up without receiving a signal to do so by the spotter, and
- backing up without locating the spotter.
The trial court awarded Pitts’ heirs $5.4 million. The company appealed.
A & G argued that the trial court shouldn’t have allowed cross-examination of Okoro about her employment application.
Okoro had testified that she had no experience driving dump trucks before being employed by A & G.
However, an employment application entered into evidence stated she had previous experience.
Okoro said the application wasn’t in her handwriting.
The company later admitted that Okoro’s actual application was misplaced and that a manager filled out an application for her during a workers’ compensation audit.
An appeals court said the trial court did nothing wrong by allowing Okoro to be questioned about the application and affirmed the previous verdict. The company has again been ordered to pay $5.4 million.
(A & G Trucking v. Pitts, Court of Appeals of GA, No. A10A1096, 11/5/10.)