U.S. District Court Jury Finds Trucker 100% at Fault for His Own Traumatic Brain Injury

On Dec. 16, 2009, Terry Smith was employed by Sycamore Specialized Carriers.  He drove his tractor-trailer to the defendant Casini Warehousing Corp.’s warehouse in Bensenville, Ill. Casini’s personnel used an overhead crane to load an injection molding machine onto Smith’s step-deck trailer.

After the injection molding machine was loaded onto the step-deck, Smith was attempting to cover it with a 20-foot by 20-foot tarp that weighed 150 pounds. While he was attempting to cover the machine, he fell from the top of the machine to the ground.

In the lawsuit that Smith filed, he argued that the trucking industry custom and practice required Casini Warehousing to use its crane to assist him in draping the heavy tarp over the machinery. Smith said that he asked Casini workers for assistance, but they refused and chose to go to lunch instead.

Smith, 52, struck his head on the machine as he fell and then landed unconscious on the warehouse floor. Smith sustained a traumatic brain injury with residual memory deficits, concentration difficulties and fatigue. He also suffered a fractured wrist, which required surgical repair with external fixation leaving him unable to make a fist.

Smith claimed that he could not return to work as a truck driver or in any other capacity. He has not worked since his fall from the step-deck. He presented to the jury $95,000 in medical expenses and lost time from his job for 20 years, valued at $1.6 million.

The defense for Casini Warehousing argued that the custom and practice in the warehouse industry did not require them to render any tarping assistance and that defendant’s responsibilities ended when the machine was loaded onto the trailer bed and the hoisting straps were removed. Therefore, the defendant’s workers were free to go back to work or go have lunch because their job was done. Plaintiff caused his own injuries by violating his employer’s rules prohibiting drivers from climbing onto a load and requiring them to call for assistance if they deem their situation unsafe.

Casini presented evidence that they never helped with a driver’s tarp since it was the driver’s responsibility and pointed to the fact that there had been no prior similar accidents while loading 20,000 machines over 11 years before this incident. Casini filed a third-party contribution claim against the plaintiff’s employer alleging failure to provide plaintiff with proper equipment.

The jury’s verdict was in favor of the defendant although it was asked to render its verdict based on the damages and it did so. The verdict showed that Smith would have received $1,370,000 and his wife would have received $43,000 for loss of consortium. However, both amounts were negated by the 100% liability finding that was placed on Smith’s comparative negligence. Accordingly, the verdict was in favor of the defendant Casini Warehousing.

Terry Smith, et al. v. Casini Warehousing Corporation v. Sycamore Specialized Carriers Inc., 10 C-8276 (U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, work injury cases, wrongful death cases, construction injury cases and product defect cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Mundelein, Elmhurst, Evanston, Franklin Park, Frankfort, Winnetka, Wheaton, Kenilworth, Joliet, Waukegan, Zion and Schiller Park, Ill.

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