Truck Door Strikes Driver: $650,000

Our middle aged client was a delivery driver for an utility. He was assigned a medium sized box truck with a 6’ x 4’ foot side utility door weighing more than 100 pounds. When opened, the utility door was connected to the truck body by a passive post and grommet system that relied on friction to keep the door open and stable. While he was heaving a large bag of scrap wire into the side utility door, the door became detached from the truck body, and struck our client in the back of the head/neck driving him down to the ground. The client suffered serious neck injuries resulting in cervical (neck) fusion surgery. He was declared permanently disabled from his job and was unable to return to work. Because an injured employee in Massachusetts who is hurt on the job may not sue his employer because he is eligible for workers compensation benefits, we could not sue the employer. However, the truck was owned not by the utility but by a “spin off” wholly owned subsidiary. We sued the subsidiary together with a maintenance company under contract with the utility. We learned during pre-trial discovery, that the truck owner, through the utility employer, wrote the truck specifications for the manufacturer that included an active T-bar latch system to hold the cargo doors open, but that 1) these were never placed on the trucks, and 2) the owner and maintenance companies never inspected the trucks to determine if they met the specifications. Once this information was learned, the parties agreed to mediation. The case settled after more than two days of negotiations for $650,000.00.