Courthouse Building Contractor Ordered to Pay $7.5M to Injured Worker
A federal judge ordered a federal contractor to pay a worker $7.5 million after he suffered serious injuries including permanent brain damage in an accident. Donald Russel told jurors that he fell 20 feet to a concrete floor through a ventilation shaft.
The most interesting thing about this case is the fact that the defendant, contractor Northern Management Services Inc., never showed up for the case or hired a lawyer to defend them. In other words, the jury listened to only one side of the story. The judge ruled that the failure was a result of their own miscommunication and negligence and declined to start the case over. A judgment was entered on behalf of the plaintiff, and the company will now pay the defendant $7.5 million unless there are valid grounds for appeal. Since they simply missed the date, that doesn’t generally qualify as grounds for appeal. It qualifies as a reason to have a $7.5 million verdict entered against you outside of your presence. Nonetheless, the company will appeal the decision hoping to have the judgment vacated and the case retried.
Russel was at the federal courthouse on the day of the accident as a fire inspector. His role was to check fire hazards and ensure equipment was up to code. Russel’s injuries included a broken wrist, pelvis, and brain injury.
The lawsuit was filed in 2019. Northern Management Services Inc. was aware of the lawsuit. A registered agent for the company turned the information over to key executives including the insurance broker. The company’s president assumed without checking that the information would be sent to the insurance company and the insurance company would handle the defense.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the insurance company was never notified and never filed any legal replies to the lawsuit. The case was allowed to move forward without a defense. After the attorney for the plaintiff contacted Northern to inform them of the judgment, Northern contacted the judge and attempted to have the case “rewound” to the beginning. The judge ruled that they did not have a good enough reason to do that, so the judgment will remain unless it is overturned on appeal.
An investigation revealed that one of the individuals responsible for contacting the insurance carrier mailed notification of the lawsuit to a salesperson at the insurance company. The salesperson didn’t know what to do, and the email never addressed a claims manager. The insurance carrier never acknowledged receipt of the lawsuit, and the executive never followed up.
The judge ruled that the company had a year to respond to the lawsuit or at least file a petition that they needed more time.
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Brain injuries impact your concentration, ability to work, to remember, and to enjoy your life. If you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury, call the Tampa personal injury lawyers at The Matassini Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help.