Plaintiff v. Amerigas Inc.: $3,000,000 for Back Up Injuries

The plaintiff was a surveyor who was preparing to set up a surveying job in a public cul de sac in a small central California town. He and his helper were kneeling down in the middle of the street on a sunny Summer day facing away from an Amerigas facility at the end of a quiet cul de sac. The plaintiff was wearing an orange tee shirt and no orange cones had yet been placed in the street because the actual surveying had not yet begun.

An emergency call came to Amerigas and two of its servicemen got into their 15,000 pound truck equipped with a crane to respond to the call. The men had seen the surveyors earlier and also on their way to the truck. The driver relied on his side mirrors to look for the surveyors as he backed his truck and did not see them figuring they had moved. His first notice that he had backed over both of them was when be felt a "bump".

Plaintiff, a 42 year old surveyor, sustained a crushed pelvis, a fractured femoral neck, a fractured elbow, some hot pavement burns and later developed impotence. His medical bills were $412,000 and his disputed wage loss and future medical needs brought economic losses to just over $1,000,000. The plaintiff was a renowned mountain guide, rock climber and back country skier and he contended that his injuries prevented him from engaging in these activities.

Plaintiff's liability theory was that the driver was inattentive and violated nearly all of the "Smith" truck safety rules for backing up. He knew the truck had a large blind spot to the rear; nevertheless, he relied solely on his side mirrors. Plaintiff also contended that Amerigas aggravated the situation by blocking the back window of the truck's cab with a tall tool box. Under these circumstances, the truck should have been equipped with a back up alarm although none was required by statute.

Amerigas contended that plaintiff also was negligent and contributed to his own injuries by failing to take simple steps to protect himself and his helper. Amerigas alleged that plaintiff was negligent for working in the street without cones, traffic control or a spotter when he knew that the Amerigas facility was there and it had truck traffic.

The case was venued in Sacramento County Superior Court. After considerable discovery the case was settled in June 2008 by mediation for $3,000,000 in cash.