Workers’ comp laws usually prohibit lawsuits against companies when a worker is seriously injured or killed on the job. But a lawyer in Texas found a way to skirt the law and win a huge jury award.
Crane operator Adrian Flores was killed after he was pinned by a 1,200 ton weight.
Flores’ crane was one of four working simultaneously to lift the weight from one end of a dry dock to the other.
The load shifted and came into Flores’ cab. He was trapped for over two hours and was conscious for much of that time. He was taken to a local hospital where he died on the operating table.
William Tinning, the lawyer for Flores’ family alleged that Gulf Marine Fabrication:
- didn’t use enough cranes
- didn’t send instructions on how to lift the load
- failed to hire an outside engineering company to design a lift plan, and
- relied on an unqualified engineer whose plan deviated from accepted practices and contained math errors.
The attorney sued the employer’s parent and sister companies, alleging they had control of the worksite. At the same time, he admitted that the employer bore some responsibility, just not all of it.
Tinning used the deposition of an executive with the parent company who signed the contract, oversaw daily operation and did hiring onsite to show the parent company had control over the crane operation.
The jury assigned 15% of the blame for the employer and awarded $5 million to Flores’ widow, $500,000 to each of his four adult children, and $1 million to each of his two minor children. The remainder of the $11 million award went to his estate for his own pain and suffering.
Lawyers for the company only called two witnesses during the trial: the engineer who designed the plan and an OSHA expert.
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