BEAUMONT — Two people injured when part of a large highway sign frame and crane dropped on their cars in 2016 will share in a $4.8 million settlement.
The accident happened in February 2016 when a large sign frame was being lifted into place with a mobile crane truck when the crane tipped and fell into moving traffic along southbound traffic along U.S. Highway 69 just south of Lucas Drive according to a news release from the Ferguson Law Firm.
The crane boom dropped on top of a car driven by Mason Hendon, 26, crushing the roof of the car according to the release.
A second vehicle, driven by Darlene Cotton, 59, was then struck by the crane's boom the release said.
From a Ferguson Law Firm news release...
Two plaintiffs will share a $4.8 million settlement recovered by their attorneys at The Ferguson Law Firm.
The lawsuit, scheduled for trial on September 24, 2018, settled shortly before on terms that plaintiffs' counsel Paul 'Chip' Ferguson called "extremely favorable".
The case was pending in the 58th Judicial District Court before Hon. Kent Walston.
In 2015, Defendant-Analytical Technology Consultants, Inc had been contracted by co-Defendant-Oldcastle Materials Company d/b/a APAC-Texas, Inc. to place overhead road signage along Highway 69 as part of the re-routing of the highway's entrance and exit ramps.
On the evening of February 27, 2016, ATCI was lifting a sign frame for placement with a mobile crane truck when the crane tipped and fell into moving traffic.
A vehicle driven by 26-year old Mason Hendon was struck by the falling crane boom, crushing the vehicle's roof downward.
A second vehicle, driven by 59-year old Darlene Cotton was then struck by the swinging boom. Mr. Hendon sustained a significant laceration to his head and developed a brain injury along with injury to his back. Ms. Cotton sustained injuries to her neck and lower back.
Mr. Ferguson and law partner Cody Dishon represented both Mr. Hendon and Ms. Cotton.
Ferguson summarized as follows, "Thorough investigation and discovery led us to conclude that the operator of the mobile crane was lifting the sign without use of that crane's outriggers. Without those outriggers, the crane is unstable and cannot keep its balance. Cody Dishon took the deposition of their company representative and established, point-by-point, our entire case. By the time he passed the witness, the case was over."
Ferguson then served written discovery on the defendants that forced them to admit their responsibility. "They really had no choice but to admit fault. We set up the perfect Catch-22."
Mr. Dishon added, "It is a matter of preparation. You review the pictures. You look at the operating instructions for the crane. You research that. All of those things were all done and, when the lights came on, we were ready."
As far as the testimony from the defendant's company representative, Mr. Dishon said, "He admitted that not using the outriggers was dangerous, unsafe and reckless. It was Crane Operations 101 and their guy failed the test."
Mr. Hendon was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury resulting in some cognitive loss as well as memory problems.
He was also a candidate for a future surgery on his lumbar spine.
Mr. Hendon's damage model was complicated by the fact that he was an avid skateboarder with a history of other falls, concussions and prior memory loss.
Just one month before this incident, he had fallen and required multiple staples to close that head wound.
Ferguson explained, "We needed to use objective evidence and testing that showed the before and after effects from this accident. We did that."
Mr. Hendon's medical expenses exceeded $200,000.00. He also contended that he planned to be an electrician, but his injuries foreclosed that opportunity.
His prior work history, though, was inconsistent, consisting of transient cooking and labor work. "It is a difficult task, but one we took on, to show that a young man needs to be judged by his future and not just by his past.
The amount recovered for this young man shows that we accomplished that," Ferguson said. Mr. Hendon received $3.8 million from the settlement.
Ms. Cotton was diagnosed with both neck and back injuries. She had ongoing pain and discomfort and underwent long-term physical therapy and injections for this. Her treating physician termed her a potential candidate for surgical intervention, depending on how her symptoms progressed. "Darlene is a wonderful client and wonderful person. She devoted her life to service for others by working in drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and as a health care aide. Despite her injuries, she continued to work and should be commended for that," Ferguson said. Ms. Cotton had some $115,000 in medical expenses. She received $1.0 million from the settlement.
"This was hard case and one that was well-developed by our office," Ferguson said. "There were 100 exhibits and countless evidentiary objections from the defense. There was a full pre-trial hearing shortly before the scheduled trial date where we presented our positions. We were reasonably successful at the pre-trial for two reasons: we were prepared and we were right. I also commend Judge Walston on his patience with all of us and the time he took to read and research the legal issues involved." Ferguson concluded, "It is like the old saying: if you want peace then you must prepare for war. And that was not just me or Cody: it was our entire office. My legal assistants, and Cody's legal assistant, were invaluable. I have been a lawyer for a long time and that was the best support work I have ever received. They were phenomenal."
This result continues The Ferguson Law Firm's long-standing practice of preparing for trial to maximize their clients' recoveries. Last month, Mr. Ferguson obtained a $1.55 million settlement utilizing the same techniques. The firm was also recently recognized as having four verdicts and settlements from 2017 recognized as the Top Verdicts in Texas.
The firm maintains its office in its hometown of Beaumont, Texas and remains committed to a single goal: represent each client's best interests.
The lawyers at The Ferguson Law Firm have obtained more than one hundred verdicts and settlements in excess of $1,000,000.00 including several record-setting awards.
They have also been instrumental in at least two recalls of unsafe products as well as their role in requiring seat belts on school busses across the State of Texas.