In December 2015, a client of Trial Lawyers for Justice was removing corn from a grain storage building using a grain vacuum machine. Grain was being vacuumed from the side of the structure and transferred to a grain trailer and truck. For some unknown reason, the client ended up in the structure and was engulfed by corn. Some of the stored grain had spoiled or had gone out-of-condition causing crusting. There were no eye witnesses to the client’s death. The client was 56 years old, not married, and had no children. Our grain bin expert testified that the client’s death would not have occurred if the employer had complied with general accepted and adopted grain management standards and pertinent federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace safety and health regulations including lack of access to a body harness and lifeline, lack of lockout/tag out provisions, and the absence of a trained on-site observer. The defense grain bin expert opined that based upon the on-site photographs the corn was not out of condition. The defense also argued that the client was comparatively negligent as other co-employees testified by deposition that our client had been verbally told on numerous prior occasions not to enter a grain storage building and that entering the structure was a known danger.
Our client’s claims were limited to conscious pre-death pain and suffering and punitive damages. To establish our conscious pre-death pain and suffering claim, we retained a forensic pathologist who opined that our client would have been conscious for up to two minutes during the period of suffocation.
The case settled at mediation for $1,500,000.00. Prior to mediation, Trial Lawyers for Justice insisted that the defense put $1,000,000 on the table as a condition to mediate, which the defendants eventually agreed to. The client was represented by Trial Lawyers for Justice attorneys Nicholas Rowley, Dominic Pechota, and Matt Reilly and attorney J. Richard Johnson. Trial was scheduled to begin in July 2019.