A man who was severely injured after a building collapsed on him at a Florida construction site was awarded $64.5 million by a jury in Hillsborough County recently.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, plaintiff in Matthews v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC was injured in 2009 when a building under construction collapsed on him – all 11,000 pounds of it. It crushed his legs, his pelvis and his internal organs.
He was just 25 at the time of the incident.
Now 30, the last several years have been difficult. Initially, doctors didn’t even know if he would survive.
At the time of the South Florida construction accident, the worker was underneath the building working when a train barreled by the site. The ground started to vibrate. The entire building began to shift. It slid toward him. He had no time to react.
Even when he surprised doctors by surviving the accident, they told him he’d never walk again. Once again, he proved them wrong.
Still, his injuries continue to plague him, and much of the damage is almost certainly going to be permanent.
Because the victim was working at the time of the accident, he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These are benefits paid by an employer in the event a worker is injured on-the-job. It’s not necessary in these cases to prove the employer was in any way negligent; only that the injury occurred in the course and scope of employment.
But for a situation like this where injuries are serious and likely permanent, workers’ compensation benefits usually do not cover the full extent of losses, and certainly not outside of medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
This is why third-party litigation in these cases is something typically vital. Third-party litigation involves examining the responsibility of entities other than an employer.
On a construction site, that could be the site owner. It could be the general contractor. It could be a subcontractor. It could be another person or company entirely.
In this case, there were two construction companies plaintiff initially pursued. The first, Mosaic, is a sizable fertilizer maker operating throughout the central portion of the state.
Mosaic hired two other firms – Semco Construction to prepare the construction site and Mark Rice Inc., which was to install a prefab building at the site. The worker was employed by Mark Rice Inc. For that reason, the worker could not collect damages from his employer (only in very rare circumstances can workers sue their employers for work injuries in Florida).
And what’s more, the worker will not be able to collect the majority of that $64.5 million judgment. That is because 75 percent of the blame was placed on Mosaic. But that company, prior to trial, entered into a confidential settlement agreement with the plaintiff. That means plaintiff signed away any future claims of liability against the company for his injuries, meaning the company won’t have to pay its portion of the verdict.
It’s not clear whether the settlement was for anything close to what the jury awarded, but at least the plaintiff will not have to deal with any appeals as far as that defendant goes.
The award does impose a $10 million verdict where Semco is concerned. It is unclear whether that company plans to appeal.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Jury’s verdict is $64.5 million in construction accident at Mosaic Co. site, March 30, 2015, By Anna M. Philips, Tampa Bay Times
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