A jury in Harris County, Texas, recently returned a $10,702,449 verdict in favor of Brady Foret, a 23-year-old derrick hand, against Stewart & Stevenson, a Texas company. The case arose out of a work-related incident that occurred in 2009. In the summer of 2008, Plaintiff’s employer, Key Energy Services, sent a mobile workover rig to Stewart & Stevenson in Odessa, for refurbishment of the mast. Key paid nearly $100,000.00 for disassembly, inspection, repair, maintenance, reassembly, reinspection and certification of the rig mast.
After the work was completed, the rig was sent back to Key Energy Services, which did not use the rig until January 2009. The rig was transported to perform workover on a drill site in Louisiana. It was rigged up, using the equipment provided by Stewart & Stevenson, which included only two of four safety pins. On the third day of use, Plaintiff was working as a derrick hand 85 feet above ground. When the rig experienced a catastrophic collapse, the worker fell to the ground. He suffered massive bodily and orthopedic injuries, and a closed head injury.
The work performed by Stewart & Stevenson on the Wilson mast (112 feet tall) was to certify it for hook weight of 300,000 pounds. The mast fell with less than 200,000 pounds of weight on the hook. Normal operations were underway at the time of the collapse. The Defendant contended that there were serious problems with alignment of the rig that ultimately caused the mast to collapse when the rig fell off the main beam. The only Defendant at time of trial was Stewart & Stevenson, LLC. Key Energy Services, Plaintiff’s employer, was designated by Stewart & Stevenson as a responsible third party.
The Plaintiff sustained a number of serious injuries in the fall. He suffered multiple fractures of the spinous processed in his back, compression fractures to his vertebrae, a torn posterior cruciate ligament in the left knee, fractured jaw, torn rotator cuff, fractures of almost all ribs, left shin laceration, fractured right scapula, traumatic brain injury, left eye swelling, scalp hematoma, kyphosis and vision problems. After surgical repair of his jaw, Plaintiff was treated with multiple courses of physical therapy. He was sent for neuropsychological testing on three separate occasions. Neuropsychological testing revealed memory problems, vision problems, deficits in language, deficits in processing speed and deficits in executive function. Two separate MRI scans of Plaintiff’s brain showed no abnormalities.
Closed head injuries are very serious. The Plaintiff also suffers from anxiety and worry. He was sent by the workers’ compensation carrier to Houston to attend Mentis, a facility specializing in the care of individuals who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. After two weeks of intense training, he was discharged with significant neuropsychological deficits. Neuropsychological testing confirmed that Plaintiff sustained neuropsychological deficits as a result of the traumatic brain injuries. He struggles every day with short-term memory loss, frustration, anxiety, and is unable to return to competitive employment. Plaintiff incurred approximately $120,000.00 in medical bills which were paid by the workers’ compensation carrier at a reduced rate of $69,678.53. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was making $53,000.00 annually. He sustained loss of earnings in the past of $135,145.00. The entire verdict was compensatory, with no punitive damages being considered.
John W. Stevenson, Jr., and Mark T. Murray, lawyers with the Houston-based firm, Stevenson & Murray, represented the Plaintiff and they did a very good job. Incidentally, the pretrial offer in the case was only $750,000 in response to a settlement demand of less than $3 million.
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