Monday, Sep 15, 2014
Mobile, Ala. – The morning that a week-long trial was set to begin, the law firm of Cunningham Bounds finalized a $5,000,000 settlement for the Estate of Paul E. Hodgson, III, in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Cavco, Inc.; AIS, LLC; Big Rock Transportation, LLC; and JVR Transportation, LLC. The lawsuit stemmed from an August 20, 2012, incident where Paul E. Hodgson, III, was crushed to death by two high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes that rolled off a flatbed trailer at a Hertz Service Pump & Compressor facility in Theodore. Mr. Hodgson was 54 years-old when he was killed.
“We hope that holding these companies accountable will give some measure of comfort to the family,” said Robert Mitchell of Cunningham Bounds. “This was a devastating event, and just getting to this point took the family’s dedication and courage.”
On August 16, 2012, in Canton, Ohio, Cavco, Inc. and AIS, LLC loaded 50-foot sections of HDPE pipe onto a flatbed trailer that was bound for Theodore and that was operated by JVR Transportation, LLC and Big Rock Transportation, LLC. Neither the freight handlers nor the commercial driver placed any safety devices to secure the top layer of pipe from lateral movement when unstrapped. On August 20, 2012, shortly after the trailer arrived at the Hertz facility in Theodore, the commercial driver removed straps from the top layer of pipe without warning other unloading personnel that the pipe was unsecured and without ensuring that no persons were in harm’s way. Two of the HDPE pipes weighing nearly 1-ton rolled off the trailer and crushed Mr. Hodgson.
In the lawsuit, the Plaintiff alleged that, in addition to using straps, industry pipe- loading standards and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require the use of chocks, wedges, vertical stakes or other similar safety devices to secure HDPE pipe from rolling laterally off a trailer. The Plaintiff further alleged that commercial drivers have a responsibility to ensure that unloading areas are safe before unstrapping cargo. Discovery in the lawsuit revealed that the potentially fatal risks of HDPE pipe were well-known to the defendants, but that none of them had implemented any corporate policies or protocols to ensure that the required safety measures were implemented.
“Sadly, this case proves again what has long been known. When companies take short-cuts in safety, tragedy is almost sure to follow,” said Mitchell. “Paul’s death would’ve been prevented if any one of these defendants had followed even the most basic safety principles.”
Robert L. Mitchell and George W. “Skip” Finkbohner of Cunningham Bounds, LLC, served as co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.