Ship loader claiming back injury gets $1.3 million

A cargo ship loader who claimed a back injury when he fell on the deck of a freighter during a rainstorm recovered nearly $1.3 million on March 18. Quinton Henderson argued that the ship's deck had nonskid walkways along the sides (from bow to stern), but not athwart (across) the vessel. Henderson called a vessel captain to testify that the entire deck should have been coated with nonskid paint. Henderson underwent a lumbar diskectomy, followed by a fusion that was unsuccessful. The jury found the manager 40 percent negligent, the owner 30 percent negligent and Henderson 30 percent negligent. It awarded Henderson $1,734,943.

Henderson v. Irika Shipping S.A., No. D185296

Court: 136th District Court, Jefferson County

Plaintiff Attorney: Richard M. Schechter, Law Offices of Richard M. Schechter, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Kevin P. Walters and Dimitri P. Georgantas, Chaffe McCall, Houston

Motor Vehicle

Family awarded $283,000 for driver who fell asleep and hit them

On Feb. 22, a judge awarded $283,000 to a family who was injured when a driver fell asleep and crashed through some bollards. Cynthia Prokop was walking with her two sons, Benjamin and Samuel, when Raymond Briones hit the row of concrete bollards. Samuel was hit, and debris from the bollards hit Cynthia and Benjamin. The family sued Briones, who had stated that he had a medical condition that caused sleepiness. The family also named several entities for the design, construction and installation of the bollards. Those parties settled for $555,000. The case went to trial against Briones, who didn't appear, and the court issued a default judgment.

Prokop v. Academy Ltd., No. 201072985

Court: 189th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Jeffrey L. Befort, Befort Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Did not appear

Jury awards $2,000 for alleged neck and back injuries

On Feb. 20, a jury awarded $2,000 to a driver who claimed cervical and lumbar strains in a rear-ender. Vernica Thompson was struck by Rachel Szitas who stipulated to negligence. Thompson claimed cervical and lumbar strains. She was treated in the emergency room, and underwent six weeks of chiropractic treatment. She sought $11,000 for past medical expenses and an unspecified amount for past pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that the collision did not have sufficient force to cause the claimed injuries.

Thompson v. Szitas, No. 201123836

Court: 55th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Donald G. DeSimone, DeSimone Law Office, Houston

Defense Attorney: Jill D. Schein, Ramey, Chandler, Quinn & Zito, Houston

Worker/Workplace Negligence

Family of man who died days after fight gets $1.4 million

The family of a man who died several days after he got in a fight at an Exxon gas station recovered $1.4 million on Feb. 15. Alfredo Pagayon was at the gas station to pick up his son who worked there. His son got in a fight with a co-worker, and his father stepped in to help. Pagayon was taken to the hospital for shortness of breath and disorientation. He contracted an infection during his stay and died of sepsis 23 days later. The family claimed that the co-worker started the fight, by picking on Pagayon Jr. and threatening to beat him up, and that Exxon management was notified (by phone on that same day) that the co-worker had threatened to beat Pagayon Jr.

Pagayon v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. 408,239

Court: Harris County Probate Court No. 2

Plaintiff Attorneys: Hank Stout and Graham E. Sutliff, Sutliff & Stout, Houston

Defense Attorneys: Clive Markland and Chandria Jackson, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Houston; Richard P. Hogan Jr., Hogan & Hogan, Houston

Workplace Safety

Ambulance company not liable for cot that hit EMT

An emergency medical technician who was knocked down by a cot rolling out of the back of an ambulance lost her suit against her employer on March 4. Desiree Livingston claimed that Coastal EMS failed to employ sufficient staff to allow an employee to serve as a spotter when securing cots in ambulances. Defense counsel argued that Livingston's failure to check and see that the cot was properly secured in the ambulance was the sole proximate cause of her injuries. Livingston claimed two cervical herniations. The defense argued that they were a pre-existing condition.

Livingston v. Coastal EMS Inc., No. 200914648

Court: 152nd District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff Attorney: Wade D. Moriarty, Moriarty Law Firm, Houston

Defense Attorney: Allen J. Washburn, Murphrey & Washburn, Tomball

Jury sides with employer blamed for ladder fall

A painter's employer wasn't liable for his fall from a 6-foot ladder that fractured his hip, a jury found on Feb. 4. Pedro Aguilar was standing on the stepladder that was closed, so he could lean it against a wall. As he began to paint, the ladder gave way, and he fell. He claimed that his employer, Rogelio Soto, should have told him to open the ladder and not lean it against the wall. Soto denied the allegations and said he was unaware that Aguilar was using the ladder in this way. He said Aguilar had done so previously and was warned about it.

Aguilar v. Soto, No. 348-254516-11

Court: 348th District Court, Tarrant County

Plaintiff Attorneys: Eric D. Nielsen and Leonid Kishinevsky, Nielsen & Mukerji, Houston

Defense Attorney: David Frisby, The Frisby Law Office, Fort Worth