Read the Baylor Stadium lawsuit verdict in Verdict Search
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Texas Vol. 16 Issue 21 May 16, 2016
Ironworker drowned when boom lift fell in river
Suarez v. Austin Bridge & Road LP
Harris County District Court, 151st
Plaintiff Counsel Vuk S. Vujasinovic, Lena Laurenzo and Kenneth B. Fenelon, Jr., VB Attorneys, Houston
Defense Counsel Larry G. Black, Larry G. Black Attorney at Law, Kingsland
Full report on page 5
employment Race Discrimination Wrongful Termination Harris County Machinist fired for well-known safety violation, company argued . . . . . 7
Motor Vehicle Lane Change sideswipe Truck Anderson County Defendant changed lanes and then plaintiff crashed in ditch . . . . . . . . . . 9
Motor Vehicle Rear-ender Lane Change Intersection Dallas County Driver claimed concussion and soft-tissue injuries in rear-ender . . . . . . 10
Motor Vehicle Rear-ender Truck Multiple Vehicle Dallas CountyNo clear-cut evidence for any accident scenario: defense . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
employment Retaliation Discrimination Wrongful Termination Dallas CountyAssembly worker fired for disciplinary problems: company . . . . . . . . . . 13
Motor Vehicle Rear-ender Multiple Impact Multiple Vehicle Denton CountyPlaintiff claimed brain injury from rear-ender on freeway . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Motor Vehicle Rear-ender alcohol Involvement Hidalgo County Drunken driver hit sedan on causeway to South Padre . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
employment Race Discrimination National Origin Discrimination FederalBakery predominantly hired Hispanic applicants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Breach of Contract Fraud Fraudulent Inducement Conspiracy Federal Dispute arose between owners of YouTube channel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Cases of Note
hotsheetInsurance Disputes . . . . . . . . . . . .4
SoutheaSt harriS Count y
workplaCe SafetyWrongful Death Products Liability
Ironworker drowned when boom lift fell in riverMixed VerdiCt $17,720,000
CaSe Raquel Soto Castillo Suarez, Lucia Suarez, Raquel Suarez and Ruben Dario Suarez individually and as the heirs and representatives of the Estate of Jose Dario Suarez, deceased v. Austin Bridge & Road LP, Derr & Isbell Construction LLC, Genie Industries Inc., Austin Commercial LP, Flintco LLC, Terex Corp., Baylor University, Robshaw Engineering Inc. and Core Safety Inc., No. 2014-11694
Court Harris County District Court, 151st, TXJudge Michael Engelhartdate 4/14/2016
plaintiffattorney(S) Vuk S. Vujasinovic (lead), VB Attorneys,
Houston, TX Lena Laurenzo, VB Attorneys, Houston, TX Kenneth B. Fenelon, Jr., VB Attorneys,
defenSeattorney(S) Darrell L. Barger, Hartline Dacus Barger
Dreyer LLP, Corpus Christi, TX (Austin Commercial LP)
Larry G. Black, Larry G. Black Attorney at Law, Kingsland, TX (Austin Bridge & Road LP)
Mark Deaton, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C., Houston, TX (Genie Industries Inc., Terex Corp.)
Stephen B. Edmundson, Cozen OConnor, LLP, Houston, TX (Derr & Isbell Construction LLC)
Lane Farley, Fletcher, Farley, Shipman & Salinas LLP, Dallas, TX (Baylor University)
Adam Gutmann, Cozen OConnor, LLP, Houston, TX (Derr & Isbell Construction LLC)
Clifford L. Harrison, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C., Houston, TX (Genie Industries Inc., Terex Corp.)
Christopher Jordan, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr P.C., Austin, TX (Flintco LLC)
R. Scott Mayo, Fletcher, Farley, Krueger, Shipman & Salinas, LLP, Dallas, TX (Baylor University)
Gregory C. Noschese, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C., Dallas, TX (Flintco LLC)
John M. Ribarits, Preis PLC, Houston, TX (Robshaw Engineering Inc.)
Amanda Simpson, Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP, Corpus Christi, TX (Austin Commercial LP)
John W. Slates, Slates Harwell, LLP, Dallas, TX (Core Safety Inc.)
Kenneth H. Tribuch, Preis PLC, Houston, TX (Robshaw Engineering Inc.)
faCtS & allegationS On Jan. 28, 2014, plaintiffs decedent Jose Suarez, 55, a journeyman ironworker, was an employee of Derr & Isbell, a subcontractor of Austin Bridge & Road LP on a project to construct a pedestrian bridge across the Brazos River on the campus of Baylor University. The project was part of a larger stadium project overseen by Flintco LLC and Austin Commercial LP, which contracted the bridge construction to Austin Bridge & Road. Baylor University contracted Core Safety Inc. to perform safety audits in the overall project. While Suarez was tied off to the basket of a boom lift manufactured by Genie Industries Inc., which was on a barge manufactured by Robshaw Engineering Inc. in the river below the bridge, the boom lift fell off the barge and into the water. Suarez was unable to free himself from the basket and drowned.
Suarezs wife and children, individually and on behalf of his estate, sued Austin Bridge & Road, Austin Commercial, Flintco, Derr & Isbell, Baylor University and Core Safety, claiming negligence and gross negligence; and Genie Industries (and parent company Terex Corp.) and Robshaw Engineering, claiming negligence under a products liability theory.
Baylor was dismissed in a summary judgment in 2015. Core Safety was dismissed in a directed verdict after the plaintiff rested. Robshaw was nonsuited by the plaintiffs following the close of defense arguments. And the case against Austin Bridge & Road, Austin Commercial, Flintco, Derr & Isbell, Terex and Genie proceeded to the jury.
Plaintiffs counsel argued that the boom lift was brought onto the barge and left unsecured in violation of site safety rules and written instructions provided by Genie Industries and Robshaw Engineering directly to Austin Bridge & Road.
Plaintiffs counsel argued that Derr & Isbell had been using the lift on the barge for weeks prior to the accident with no intervention by any of the defendants. None of the defendants attempted to train the Derr & Isbell workers on these safety rules, counsel argued.
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Under cross-examination, Austin Bridge & Roads safety expert testified that the defendants had not met industry safety standards. Plaintiffs counsel maintained that marketing defects on both the lift and the barge contributed to the accident. Plaintiffs counsel said they made a general claim of defective marketing in their initial pleadings but didnt find enough evidence to make more specific claims. While never formally dropping Terex and Genie, plaintiffs counsel didnt make any arguments and presented no evidence against them at trial.
Defense counsel denied negligence and gross negligence.Austin Bridge & Road argued that design defects in
the boom were the sole proximate cause of the accident, maintaining a poor control design caused workers to move the boom in the wrong direction, unbalancing the boom and the barge.
The defense design expert for Austin Bridge & Road testified that the controls consisted of three knobs of identical shape beside each other; that this arrangement would have made control difficult; and that a safer alternative design was feasible.
Counsel for Austin Commercial, Flintco and Baylor denied they exercised control over the bridge site.
Counsel for Derr & Isbell maintained that the company was never told of the safety rules involving the lift and barge.
Counsel for Genie Industries and Robshaw Engineering denied design defects and maintained that Austin Bridge & Road was solely liable for bringing the boom onto the barge in violation of safety rules and equipment instructions.
inJurieS/daMageS death Suarez was tied off to the basket of the boom lift when
it fell into the water and dragged him to the bottom of the river. He was declared dead on the scene after his body was recovered later that day. The cause of death was determined to be drowning.
The plaintiffs forensic expert testified that Suarez would have remained conscious for a minimum of two to three minutes after being dragged underwater and may have remained conscious for longer. A second worker who was operating the lift at the time of the accident and survived testified that he was conscious underwater for approximately two minutes before he was able to get free and reach the surface. The expert testified that Suarez would have experienced extreme terror and emotional distress prior to death. The surviving worker testified he did experience severe emotional distress prior to escaping the lift. The witness described the river as both dark and freezing cold and the experience as terrifying.
Suarez is survived by his wife, three adult children and three grandchildren. Two of the children testified at trial. A third is a resident of Mexico and did not appear at trial.
The plaintiffs economics expert testified that Suarezs past lost earnings were $366,237, and the expert valued his past lost household services to his wife at $301,109.
The plaintiffs sought $27.7 million for Suarezs pre-death pain and suffering and his wife and childrens past and future
lost income, loss of household services, loss of society and companionship, emotional distress and punitive damages.
reSult The jury found Austin Bridge & Road solely liable. The plaintiffs were awarded $17.72 million.
eState of JoSe dario Suarez $5,000,000 past pain and suffering $2,000,000 punitive damages $7,000,000
luCia Suarez $250,000 past loss of socie