Defense Verdict in Wrongful Death Trial
Obtained a defense verdict in a week-long jury trial involving wrongful death and survivorship claims brought by the estate of the decedent. The decedent was killed when a farm truck backed over her at a grain processing facility. We represented the driver and owner of the farm truck. The estate sought $5 million in damages, and had rejected an offer of $200,000. The plaintiffs had four experts: an agricultural safety expert, an accident reconstructionist, an ER doctor and an economist. Their safety expert and accident reconstructionist claimed the truck driver failed to follow safe backing procedures, and that the truck had an inoperable reverse lamp and horn, which made the truck unsafe to be driven. Marshall Dennehey was successful in a motion for directed verdict on behalf of the truck owner on the grounds that the driver was not acting as his agent or employee and that there was no evidence of negligent entrustment. The case proceeded against the truck driver and the grain company. The defense presented evidence that the plaintiff's decedent was familiar with the area, and knew that the ramp where the incident happened was used almost exclusively for trucks to back up to the grain receiving pit; our driver saw the pedestrian on the ramp and then moved from the ramp before our driver began backing up; and that the plaintiff must have been distracted by her use of a cell phone and stepped up on the ramp while the driver was backing. The defense further argued that the driver was not required to ensure the pedestrian was paying attention; did not have to give her verbal warning that he intended to back; and that the size and sound of the truck was ample warning of his intentions. The jury held that the plaintiff's decedent was 100% responsible for the accident.