New Trial Awarded to Amputee: Jury Confusion Led to Reduced Award

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A Highland, Indiana man whose leg was amputated in an industrial accident five years ago is entitled to a new trial, according to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

John Mesman, 44, and his former wife, Judy, 47, were awarded $16.5 million by a federal court jury in Hammond in 2003. Although a record verdict at the time, larger net jury verdicts for a leg amputation have been returned since then in Indiana and elsewhere.

Mr. Mesman’s attorneys argued that Crane Pro designed a defective crane and that the company failed to properly warn Infra Metals employees about the potential danger. The jury agreed, but then allocated only one-third of the total fault to Crane Pro, with the remainder attributed to Mesman’s employer, Infra Metals.

The federal court of appeals affirmed the new trial order for Mr. Mesman because “the jury had been confused.”

The Court of Appeals held that the jury was reasonable in concluding that, “all things considered, [Crane Pro’s] failure to design the renovated crane in such a way as to protect Mesman against the kind of error that Van Til made was negligent,” and that it was wrong to enter judgment in favor of Crane Pro.

“Under Indiana law, John can only recover worker’s compensation benefits from his employer, and those benefits must be fully repaid from his verdict,” said Mesman’s attorneys. “We believe if the jury had fully understood that all fault attributed to Inframetals would actually be subtracted from John’s portion of the verdict, the fault percentage to Inframetals would have been little or nothing.”

The new trial is scheduled for early 2006. John Mesman and Judy Mesman vs. Crane Pro Services, et al., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Case No. 04-2146.

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Peter Boyd

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