The plaintiff suffered crush injuries after a semi-tractor backed over his body below the waist. He survived but his injuries include, back pain, leg pain and erectile dysfunction.
Accident suit settles for $6.99M
By Mary Kate Malone
Law Bulletin staff writer
A 46-year old man who was run over by a tractor at a shipping yard in Will County three years ago will receive a $6.99 million settlement.
Simon Estrada-Varela survived the accident but sustained permanent injuries, including pain in his back and legs and erectile dysfunction, said his attorney, John M. Power, a partner at Cogan & Power P.C.
“The fact that he can still walk, despite having a truck parked on his pelvis, just blew my mind,” Power said.
Estrada-Varela, a truck driver, had driven to the Channahon Yard in Channahon, a village near Joliet, to pick up a cargo container for transport.
He waited about three hours for the container to arrive, and started walking toward the front entrance of the site when he thought he saw it getting brought in, Power said.
Meanwhile, another truck driver, Milhai Orha, was trying to exit the facility by making a three-point turn in his tractor—the cabin portion of a tractor-trailer.
Orha backed the vehicle over Estrada-Varela as he walked by, causing the wheels to roll over Estrada-Varela’s body below the waist, Power said.
Estrada-Varela suffered fractures and “crush injuries” in his pelvis, legs and feet, Power said.
He filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court with his wife, Marciela Estrada, against Orha and Orha’s employer, DMTI Inc., which operated the shipping yard.
They alleged that Integrated Industries failed to keep the yard safe and allowed it to become overcrowded with trucks.
The lawsuit also alleged that Integrated should have had a worker directing traffic at the front end of the yard, which may have prevented Estrada-Varela from getting hit, Power said.
“They had a yard that was overcrowded, with too many containers, so all the lanes were too narrow and crunched down, so there were no easy traffic flows,” Power said.
The lawsuit also alleged that Orha acted negligently by failing to notice Estrada-Varela, decreased his speed and avoid hitting him.
Orha and DMTI settled with the plaintiffs on the first day of trial, March 1, for $990,000.
The trial proceeded against the other defendant, Integrated Industries, for more than a week, as the plaintiffs presented several witnesses in its case, Power said.
But before the plaintiffs rested their case, Integrated consented to a judgement against itself and admitted responsibility after an unusual set of circumstances arose regarding its insurance coverage, said Jon C. Papin, Estrada-Varela’s other attorney and Power’s colleague.
Integrated learned during trial that its excess insurance policy would not kick in until the company’s liability exceeded $6 million. But Integrated’s primary insurance coverage and second layer of insurance only covered the company up to $5 million, creating a $1 million “gap” between the policies.
Integrated consented to the judgement of $6.99 million, with $990,000 covered by the DMHI settlement and $5 million by its insurance.
It then assigned its rights to the plaintiff attorneys to allow them to pursue the remaining $1 million from whomever is responsible for paying it, whether it be the third layer of insurance or a broker responsible for the “so-called gap” or another entity, Papin said.
“The scenario was very odd, almost something out of “The Twilight Zone,” Papin said.
Orha’s and DMTI’s attorney, David A. Djirikian of Kennedy & Associates P.C., declined to comment.
The attorneys for Integrated—Ronald R. Aeschliman of the Law Offices of Loretta M. Griffin and Richard W. Schumacher of Stellato & Shwartz Ltd.—declined to comment.
Power said Estrada-Varela and his wife are very grateful for the judgement and plan to use part of the money to pay for their children’s education.
Estrada-Varela “had gone through bouts of depression because he couldn’t provide for his family,” Power said.
“And now he understands they’re taken care of, so you can just see the relief on his face. He’ll never be pain-free, but at least he knows his family is covered.”
Cook County Circuit Judge Donald J. Suriano presided over the trial. Suriano presided over the trial. Suriano entered a consent order in the case on Tuesday.
The case is Simon Estrada-Varela et al. v. DMTI Inc., et al. No. 10 L 2433
Originally published on March 22, 2013 in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin