Forklift backs up into security guard, drags him 15 feet; leg amputation. $16.9M. Riverside County.
Security guard at printing plant is run over by forklift operator.
- Case Name: Steven Meier v. PennySaver USA, LLC, et al.
- Court and Case Number: Riverside Superior Court / RIC1507069
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, July 11, 2017
- Date Action was Filed: Friday, June 12, 2015
- Type of Action: Negligence, Workplace Accident, Misc.
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Sharon Waters
- Plaintiffs: Steven Meier, 59, security guard.
- Defendants: PennySaver USA and Oliver Cervantes
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $16,948,377.29
- Net Verdict or Award: $16,948,377.29
- Settlement Amount: During the jury deliberations, the parties agreed to a high/low agreement of $4,000,000 (low) and $22,000,000 (high), which was put on the record. As a result, the entire verdict will be paid within 30 days.
- Contributory/Comparative Negligence: The jury found that Meier was negligent, but that his negligence was not a substantial factor in causing him harm.
- Economic Damages:
Past medical cost: $464,291
Future medical cost: $1,300,000
Past lost earnings: $84,086
Future lost earnings: $100,000
- Non-Economic Damages:
Past non-economic damages: $7,500,000
Future non-economic damages: $7,500,000
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: None.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Shernoff Bidart Echeverria LLP by Ricardo Echeverria and Kristin Hobbs, Calremont.
Law Office of Dennis A. Thayer by Dennis A. Thayer, Riverside.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Harrington Foxx Dubrow Canter by Edward R. Leonard, Orange.
Diederich & Associates by Robert E. Henke, Diamond Bar.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
Douglas Smith, M.D., orthopedic surgery.
John Michael, C.P.O., prosthetics.
Rhonda Renteria, R.N., life care planning, Anaheim.
Timothy Lanning, economics, Santa Ana.
Richard Andersen, vocational rehabilitation, Westminster.
- Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
Kendall Wagner, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Fullerton.
Sarah Larsen, R.N., life care planning.
David Weiner, economics.
Steve Molina, Ph.D., vocational rehabilitation, Santa Ana.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Gavin Huntley-Fenner, Ph.D., human factors, Irvine.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
On Oct. 20, 2013, plaintiff Steven Meier, 59, a security guard employed by Securitas Security Services, was patrolling at a PennySaver USA printing facility in Mira Loma. During a patrol, Meier was struck from behind by a forklift being operated in reverse by PennySaver USA employee, Oliver Zavala Cervantes. The forklift dragged Meier 15 feet before stopping, and a second forklift was brought in to dislodge Meier’s leg from underneath the forklift.
Meier sued Cervantes and PennySaver USA, LLC for negligence and negligence per se for Cervantes’ failure to operate the forklift safely and failure to look in the direction of travel.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That PennySaver employee, Oliver Zavala Cervantes, was negligent by failing to look in the direction of travel while he was reversing.
- Defendant's Contentions:
While Cervantes conceded that he was not looking in the direction of travel before the impact with Meier, defendants claimed that Meier was inattentive and was comparatively liable for the accident and his injuries. Defense contended the forklift was equipped with a working backup alarm and strobe light, to which Meier paid no attention. Defendants contended that Meier’s inattention was particularly negligent because his job as a security guard was to be attentive and to have his head “on a swivel.”
Defendants further contended that while it was not a requirement that security guards wear safety vests or carry flashlights, vests and flashlights had been provided and plaintiff Meier should have utilized them to be more visible. The incident happened on a Sunday morning, which Meier admitted was the busiest time of the week for forklift operation in the area where the incident occurred. Meier had been wearing a vest earlier in his shift, but took it off because it was hot.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Meier sustained severe injuries, including degloving of his lower right leg and a crushed right ankle. Despite several surgeries over the next year and a half to save his leg, ultimately Meier’s right leg was amputated below the knee. Meier is expected to receive a permanent prosthetic in 2018, but because of his age and the condition of his residual limb, he will continue to require attendant care for the rest of his life. Further revision surgeries to his residual limb are expected in order to remove excess skin and improve the condition of his residual limb.
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Medical expenses were undisputed and the jury awarded $464,291.29.
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $1,300,000
- Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $84,086
- Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $100,000