Date of Settlement:

June 13.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Philadelphia No. 100703493.

Judge:

No judge assigned.

Type of Action:

Personal injury.

Injuries:

Broken foot and ankle bones, degloving of skin, crushed nerves.

Plaintiffs Attorneys:

Kenneth F. Fulginiti and Thomas J. Duffy, Duffy & Partners, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Douglas B. Marcello, Marcello & Kivisto, Carlisle, Pa. (Crete Carrier Corp. and Sean O’Neal); Mary Elisa Reeves, Reeves McEwing, Philadelphia, (Penn Terminals Inc.).

Plaintiffs Experts:

Dennis DeWane, trucking liability, Collegeville, Pa.; Frank M. Costanzo, accident reconstruction, Chester Springs, Pa.; Dr. Barry Ruht, foot and ankle specialist, Allentown, Pa.; Dr. Steven Boc, podiatry, Philadelphia.

Defense Experts:

Ron Signorino, trucking expert, Basking Ridge, N.J. (Crete Carrier Corp.); Steve Rickard, accident reconstruction, Harrisburg; Dr. Paul Horenstein, medical expert, Bala Cynwd, Pa.; Mark Lukas, vocational expert, Media, Pa.; Charles Martinson, psychiatrist, Princeton, N.J.; Ted Daly, port expert, Colombia.

Comment:

A former security guard at a port in Delaware County received $3 million from a trucking company whose tractor trailer ran over the guard’s leg and foot and $750,000 from the entities that owned and operated the port in an accord struck last month.

Susan Sawyer was working at the defendant Penn Terminals port facility in Eddystone, Delaware County, Aug. 3, 2008, and she was responsible for verifying that trucks and trailers matched the associated paperwork, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum.

Sean O’Neal, who was driving a tractor trailer on behalf of defendant Crete Carrier Corp., was using a cellphone and had a dog on his lap when O’Neal was exiting through the port’s entrance gate in his tractor trailer, the plaintiff’s papers said.

O’Neal began to pull away while Sawyer was still verifying his tractor trailer’s information and the rear truck tires drove over her foot and ankle, the plaintiff’s papers said.

But the police report of the incident said, “‘Sawyer reported that she was checking the number on the truck,’” she waived the driver of the vehicle to go ahead and “Sawyer said that her right foot was out past her left and she was run over by the driver-side rear tire,’” Crete Carrier Corp. and O’Neal’s mediation memorandum said.

“The distinction is immaterial, as even if he was authorized to leave the lot, a truck driver does not do so if someone is next to their vehicle,” the plaintiff’s papers said.

Plaintiffs counsel Ken Fulginiti said the issue of whether Sawyer authorized O’Neal to drive away was the most important issue in the case. If a jury thought she gave O’Neal the OK to leave, then the jury might have placed all the culpability for the accident on her, Fulginiti said.

The plaintiff’s theory against the port was that, because on the weekends trucks had to exit through an entrance gate, the driver’s side of exiting trucks was on the opposite side of the guard station and required guards to walk around the trucks in order to talk with the drivers, and the guards were placed in a position of danger, the plaintiff’s papers said.

Defendant Penn Terminals, which operated the terminal, Penn Port, co-property owner, and B & P General, co-property owner, said in their papers that the lane closure was “open and obvious. Plaintiff’s job was to check trucks entering and leaving the port through the front gate after hours and on weekends. She cannot seriously argue that she was unaware of the lane closure.”

The settlement tenders the limits of both defendants’ remaining insurance, Fulginiti said.

Sawyer’s gross workers’ compensation lien is probably about $600,000, Fulginiti said, but Fulginiti said the lien will likely settle for a promise to not seek any future workers’ compensation payments. The settlement also will need to be structured to have a Medicare set-aside, Fulginiti said.

Sawyer agreed she would not sue the client of her employer, Wackenhut Co., for any injury covered by workers’ compensation through the security firm, defendant Penn Terminals, Penn Port and B & P General’s mediation memorandum said.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge William J. Manfredi granted Penn Terminal’s motion that Sawyer had waived her right to recoup economic damages from the port entities, according to papers in the case.

Crete Carriers and O’Neal raised cross-claims against the port, Penn Terminals’ defense papers said.

Defense counsel were not immediately available for comment.