Tractor-trailer backs into worker at warehouse dock

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Verdicts & Settlements: Workplace Safety

October 8, 2009

Tractor-trailer backs into worker at warehouse dock 

James Banner was assigned to unload a tractor-trailer at the loading docks of a Daimler Chrysler warehouse. The truck’s driver, Jimmy Bates, had backed up against the dock. After conferring with Banner, Bates pulled the truck forward and stayed there for several minutes. As Banner, 41, was inspecting the back of the dock, Bates allegedly moved the truck backward.

Banner’s head was pushed between the trailer and the dock opening. He suffered a fractured skull, leading to a stroke. He now has vision problems, hearing loss, and difficulty balancing. Banner incurred about $256,500 in medical expenses. His lost income and other economic losses total about $1.96 million.

Banner and his wife sued Bates and the owner of the tractor-trailer, alleging Bates had a poor driving history with many previous violations, but the owner continued to employ him. The Banners claimed that the owner fired Bates once but rehired him a few months later.

Bates and his employer contended that Banner caused the incident by placing his head between the rear of the trailer and the dock, in contravention of a green light-red light safety system.

A jury awarded the Banners $3 million. The parties later settled for $2.75 million under a pretrial high-low agreement with a high of $2.75 million and a low of $2.25 million.

Citation: Banner v. Comtrak, Inc., No. 05VS087653A (Ga., Fulton Co. St. Dec. 18, 2008).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Peter A. Law and E. Michael Moran, both of Atlanta.

Plaintiff experts: Nick A. DeFilippis, neuropsychology, Atlanta; John E. Brown, economics, Duluth, Georgia; and Donald Hess, trucking, Quincy, Illinois.

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