A Macon County jury entered one of the highest verdicts in its county’s history when it awarded $3.09 million to an Illinois worker who sustained a brain injury at work. The Illinois personal injury verdict was entered against Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc. for its failure to maintain a safe work environment in William C. Jones v. Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc., 07 L 152 (Macon County).
At the time of the workplace injury, William Jones was working as a contract employee for Tate & Lyle at its Decatur corn processing plant. Jones had been hired to perform general maintenance work and was performing his duties in the vicinity of an above ground storage tank when the tank unexpectedly broke apart. Its contents burst out towards Jones, knocking him down.
The storage tank contained 300,000 gallons of corn gluten that was heated to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, which caused burn injuries to parts of Jones’s body. In addition, the force of the fall resulted in a closed head injury, which was eventually diagnosed as a brain injury. The plaintiff contended that this brain injury caused Jones to suffer not only from short-term memory loss, but also from a perceivable personality change.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the storage tank rupture was caused by the build up of rust and corrosion. Furthermore, the plaintiff contended that the defendant should have noticed the unsafe condition and taken appropriate measures to correct it. According to the plaintiff’s experts, the processing plant’s failure to do so was negligent and resulted in the plaintiff’s work injuries.
However, the defendants maintained that it had complied with all the required inspection programs and procedures. Furthermore, it suggested that the mandated inspections would not have been able to discover the extent of the rust and corrosion because of the tank’s unusual design. The defense argued that it had done everything to ensure the storage tank was safe and could therefore not be held responsible for the fact that it was not in fact safe.
In addition, the defense contested the extent of the plaintiff’s work injury. It pointed to the fact that the plaintiff is currently working at raising cattle, a strenuous position that requires him to do a number of taxing activities, as evidence that the plaintiff was not injured as badly as he claimed.
Furthermore, neither a head CT scan, nor an EEG showed any damage to the plaintiff’s brain, yet he was claiming that the work injury led to his brain injury. Given the lack of clear medical evidence, the plaintiff’s attorneys called on the plaintiff’s family members, including his mother, sister, and grandmother, to testify as to his short-term memory loss. The plaintiff’s family testified that he had difficulty keeping track of his appointments and that he was impaired by his memory loss on a daily basis. This subjective testimony was key in helping to prove the extent of the plaintiff’s brain injury and contributed to the high jury verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois work injuries lawsuits and Chicago construction accident cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Crestwood, Forest Park, Wheaton, Niles, and Round Lake.
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