A $2.5 million settlement was reached in the Illinois wrongful death case of Estate of Shelty J. Jones v. Stimson Lumber Co., et al., No. 06 L 1611. The claim against was filed on behalf of a Home Depot employee who was injured at work in 2004 and then died five years later from a prescription drug overdose. The medication, Fentanyl, had been prescribed for pain associated with the worker’s 2004 injuries.
In May 2004, Jones was working at a Home Depot warehouse as a forklift operator. As he was attempting to load a thousand pounds of stacked lumber into a train boxcar, the lumber fell onto Jones. As a result, Jones suffered a severe pelvic injury, which required five surgeries.
During the course of Jones’s treatment and recovery he was prescribed Fentanyl to relieve his back pain. Fentanyl is an opiate analgesic that is typically prescribed to treat severe pain, but can sometimes be prescribed to treat chronic pain. Fentanyl is similar to morphine, but is more powerful.
Five years following his original injury at Home Depot, Jones was found dead in his bed of unknown causes. However, a coroner’s report revealed dangerously high levels of Fentanyl in his body, which led to the conclusion that Jones’s death was associated with Fentanyl intoxication.
Jones’s estate filed a wrongful death claim against Stimson Lumber Co., the company which was responsible for bundling the thousand pound pile of lumber that was involved in Jones’s 2004 work place injury. The Illinois wrongful death lawsuit alleged that Stimson Lumber Co. had improperly banded, bundled, and loaded the lumber onto the box car. The lawsuit linked this incident to Jones’s eventual death by stating that his 2004 injuries were the cause of his chronic pain, but for he would not have been taking Fentanyl in 2009.
The wrongful death case was also filed against BNSF Railway Co. and Montana Rail Link, Inc., the two railroads responsible for transporting the lumber to the Illinois Home Depot facility. In addition, product defect claims were filed against Signode and Illinois Tool Works, Inc., which were responsible for manufacturing the banding machines and metal straps that Stimson Lumber Co. used to bundle its lumber.
An Illinois employee would not typically be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against his or her employer for on-the-job injuries, in the Jones case Home Depot was also named as a party defendant. However, Home Depot was not involved because of liability for Jones’s injury, but rather on a spoliation claim. The lawsuit alleged that Home Depot discarded the banding around the lumber that was involved in Jones’s injury. In a product defect claim it is important to have the actual faulty product so you can prove that there was in fact a defect which caused the injury. However, without the actual product, in this case the lumber banding, this is obviously difficult to do.
A settlement of $2.5 million involving all the various defendants was reached and then approved by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathy Flanagan. Included in the settlement was a waiver of Home Depot’s workers’ compensation lien, which was more than $400,000. This waiver of a workers’ compensation lien is fairly typical in Illinois liability lawsuits where the expenses associated with litigating the case does not compare to the employer’s risks of liability at the trial. In Jones, the employer, Home Depot, was a named third party defendant, which posed a risk for the retailer if the case had gone to trial.
Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling worker’s injuries and Illinois pharmaceutical liability claims for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Naperville, Wilmette, Glen Ellyn, Oak Lawn, and Park Ridge.
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