A Cook County jury verdict was affirmed by the Appellate Court, resulting in an $8.3 million award to the surviving spouse of a construction worker who died in a Chicago construction site accident. The court found that the defenses’ claims of an unfair trial and of unreasonable compensation were unfounded and affirmed the Illinois jury’s decision in Colella v. JMS Trucking Company of IL, Inc., et al., No. 1-08-1072.
The Illinois construction site accident occurred when the decedent was struck by a JMS Trucking dump truck driven by defendant Samuel Inendino. At the time of the accident the decedent was working at removing water from the area around a newly installed water main. At the jury trial the decedent was found to have contributed 10 percent to his own accident, while the defendants JMS Trucking and Inendino were 90 percent negligent.
While defendant JMS Trucking had attempted to bring the decedent’s employer into the construction site injury lawsuit as a third party defendant, the jury did not find the decedent’s employer, Benchmark Construction Company. On appeal, JMS Trucking argued that the Benchmark’s liability in the decedent’s accident and death was so obvious that it should have been reflected in the jury verdict. However, the appellate court did not agree and let the jury’s ruling regarding the third-party defendant stand.
The court also denied the defendants argument that the jury award was excessive. The verdict breakdown included $20,600 for medical expenses, $244,000 for lost future earnings, $1 million for the decedent’s pain and suffering, and $8 million for loss of society by the decedent’s family. The jury returned a verdict of a total of $9,264,600 which was reduced by 10% to $8,338,140 on the basis of the decedent’s contributory negligence. The court declined to change the jury verdict amounts or remand the case for a new trial on damages.
In addition, the defendants were critical of the decedent’s expert’s testimony, arguing that the expert was not qualified to testify and that his testimony was not relevant. However, the appellate court also rejected this argument, stating that the expert’s qualifications were his 30-plus years of experience driving large trucks on construction sites and that he brought relevant information for the jury.
Therefore, despite numerous arguments made by the defendants to overturn the large verdict award, or at least bring in an additional party to share the burden of liability, were denied by the appellate court. The jury verdict stands.
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