Early this month in Humboldt County, California, a jury awarded a local man $56.5 million for his lawsuit against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the largest amount ever given for a dangerous condition lawsuit in California history. Kyle Anderson sued the company after he was struck while doing construction work for Caltrans, becoming quadriplegic and left unable to speak.
The incident occurred in 2011 when Anderson was just 20 years old. He was working, at the time, for a company called All Phase Excavating, which Caltrans had subcontracted to complete a wiring project on Highway 101 in the town of Eureka, California. At 1:00 am, Anderson was crouched in a trench on the side of the road when a 1997 Acura drifted off the road and struck him.
During the two and a half month civil jury trial, Anderson's attorney, Russell Reiner, made the case that Caltrans had created dangerous conditions for its workers. In particular, he noted that Caltrans had refused to set up a lane closure to protect Anderson, which is basic safety procedure. In addition, they removed a backhoe, which would have been used as a buffer vehicle and visibility marker and positioned a tower light in a way that blinded passing traffic.
Reiner argued in court, “There's no reason not to give a lane closure.” The jury agreed and placed 100% of the blame for the accident on Caltrans. Additionally, Reiner argued that the company should have been more transparent about the accident and created new safety protocols to protects others from the possibility of a repeat tragedy. Instead, according to the lawsuit, “Following this tragic event, Caltrans closed their file within seven hours, never held safety meetings for lessons learned, and no one from Caltrans was reprimanded for their actions."
Anderson is now 26 years old and lives with his parents because he requires constant care. He suffers from a condition called “locked in syndrome.” In this state, Anderson is able to understand those around him but unable to communicate in a significant way. According to the family, they know “he's aware of his surroundings because he has responded to movies and to the presence of friends.”
The majority of the money will go to past and future medical expense and to implementing technology to help Anderson possibly communicate someday. Anderson's parents will also use it to find a home that is more accessible for their child.
The statement by Caltrans immediately following the verdict suggests that the company may appeal the decision: “The event changed the lives of many people, including the Caltrans employees who dealt with the immediate aftermath of this event. We are disappointed by the recent jury decision to assign 100 percent liability to Caltrans for this unfortunate event, and we are reviewing all of our options going forward.”
Unfortunately, roadside construction accidents occur far too often. For this reason, construction companies have a duty to protect their workers and implement sufficient safety protocol. If you have been the victim of an accident at work that might have been prevented, you may be entitled to compensation. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal may be able to help you through quality legal representation. Call us today at (303) 825-2223 or contact us online.