Federal District Court Grants Discovery Sanctions in Tennessee Worker’s Negligence Lawsuit Against Crane Company Following Accident in Man Basket

When someone is injured on the job, he or she is typically limited to the benefits available under workers’ compensation. However, there are some circumstances in which a third-party action can be brought, such as an east Tennessee personal injury lawsuit.

For instance, a recent case explored some of the complications that can arise when a worker is injured while performing tasks while standing on equipment owned by another company, on a job supervised by a second entity. Although the case was not fully resolved and may still proceed to trial, a federal district court judge imposed significant sanctions on the defendant due to its actions during the discovery phase of the case. This could potentially aid the parties in resolving their dispute prior to trial.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a case filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, was a man who was injured during an accident involving a crane. According to the plaintiff, both of his legs were shattered when the crane’s “man basket,” in which he was standing, suddenly dropped 15 0r 20 feet due to either a malfunction of the crane or operator error. The plaintiff filed suit against the company that owned the crane and provided the operator for it, asserting claims for common law negligence and negligence per se due to the crane company’s alleged failure to comply with regulations promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The crane company then filed a third-party claim against the bridge utility company that was in charge of the project during which the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff’s employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company intervened to assert its subrogation rights. Through various motions, the parties sought discovery sanctions and/or other relief.

Decision of the Court

The federal district court granted some of the motions and denied others. With respect to the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions under Federal Rule of Procedure 37, the court ordered the crane company to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs relating to the taking of the deposition of two witnesses; the costs of expert witnesses and others for the physical inspection of the crane; and the litigation costs of the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions.

The court further ordered that, going forward in the litigation, the crane company would be precluded from disputing that a pin was missing from the crane at the time of the accident; that the crane company replaced the pin before the OSHA’s inspection; that the crane company represented to the plaintiff, the utility company, and the court that the “condition of the equipment had not been changed since the accident and that no changes would be made pending further inspections;” that the crane company did not correct the court’s written order memorializing the crane company’s misleading statement; that two witnesses had filed affidavits with the court that falsely stated that the pin was not replaced; that another witness had falsely claimed to have inspected the crane alone, concealing another person’s involvement; and the crane company did not inform the plaintiff or the utility company about certain statements by the crane company’s senior mechanic to the effect that the missing pin may have caused the accident. Several of these incidents were deemed by the court to be admissible at trial, as they were particularly relevant regarding the application of Tennessee’s statutory cap on economic damages

To Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

As this case illustrates, defendants in personal injury cases can go to great length to cover up wrongdoing in an attempt to avoid a finding of liability against them. If you have been hurt by the negligence of another individual, a business or corporation, or a governmental entity, you need an assertive, thorough injury negligence attorney on your side. To set started with an investigation of your claim by an experienced east Tennessee personal injury attorney, call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657 and ask for an appointment.

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