Sturycz Watts LLC Wins Jury Verdict in Illinois Finding Contractor Negligently Caused Fall of Coal Mine Worker and Awarding Over $320,000 in Damages

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Patrick A. Watts and Nathan D. Sturycz of the law firm Sturycz Watts LLC have won a jury verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for clients John Barrow IV and Kimberlee Barrow.

"We really admire the Barrows for the courage they showed in fighting their case all the way through a jury trial"

On Friday, April 24, 2015, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Sturycz Watts LLC’s clients John Barrow IV and Kimberlee Barrow in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. After a week of trial, the jury found that defendant, Temper Fabricators, LLC (“Temper”), was negligent and awarded the Barrows a total of $320,000 plus taxable costs and post-judgment interest. Docs. 94 & 99.

On May 12, 2011, at age 58, John Barrow was working at a coal mine in Equality, Illinois when two of Temper’s employees left multiple steel-reinforced hydraulic hoses unattended across the concrete walkway inside the entrance to the mine’s main warehouse. Mr. Barrow fell while walking into the warehouse from the sunlit exterior and stepping onto one of the inflexible hoses, which rolled out from under him. Barrow landed unbraced on his lower back. Mr. Barrow underwent a spinal fusion as a result of his fall, though this procedure did not resolve his pain and caused Barrow life-inhibiting side effects. Kimberlee Barrow raised derivative loss of consortium claims.

U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel took judicial notice that employees of contractors were required to adhere to the same safety regulations of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as the employees of the mine owner. See Doc. 93 at 4. The MSHA regulations required, amongst other things, that safety hazards be barricaded or “flagged” off. Doc. 78-1. While the two Temper employees that were working with the hoses testified that they knew where the mine owner kept such safety barricades, the Barrows offered testimony from two eye witnesses to Mr. Barrow’s fall that the hydraulic hoses were not barricaded or flagged off in any way. Both eye witnesses testified that they were on their way to move the hoses themselves when Mr. Barrow entered the warehouse and fell.

Temper argued that the fall did not injure John Barrow or cause his spinal fusion surgery and that Mr. Barrow was contributorily negligent because they claimed he should have seen the hoses. See Doc. 85. Temper also asserted the affirmative defense that Temper was entitled to protection under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act as a “loaning employer.” Id.

The jury deliberated for approximately four hours before returning its verdict for the plaintiffs on all issues and awarding damages to the Barrows. Doc. 91.

"We really admire the Barrows for the courage they showed in fighting their case all the way through a jury trial," said Sturycz Watts attorney Patrick Watts. "We're glad that John and Kim received a verdict in their favor after what they continue to endure. Everyone at our firm feels honored to have gotten to know the Barrows and to have had the opportunity to help them pursue justice after what they've been through with their situation."

Citation: Barrow, et al. v. Temper Fabricators, LLC, Case No. 3:13-cv-00563-NJR-PMF, Docs. 78-1, 85, 91, 93, 94, 99, & 100 (S.D. Ill. April 24, 2015).

Plaintiff Counsel: Patrick A. Watts and Nathan D. Sturycz of St. Louis, Missouri.

Plaintiff Expert: Robert A. Beatty, M.D., neurological surgery, of Hinsdale, Illinois.

Defense Counsel: Bradley R. Hansmann of St. Louis, Missouri.

Defense Expert: Kevin J. Quigley, M.D., orthopaedic surgery, of O’Fallon, Missouri.

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Nathan Sturycz
Sturycz Watts LLC
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