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Ohio family awarded $39 million for construction zone death

Some vehicle accidents are determined to be the fault of someone other than the driver. That was the case in a recent Cuyahoga County, Ohio, civil case brought by the family of a paving inspector who was hit and killed in a construction zone on I-271.

The 41-year-old North Royalton man was fatally injured in July 2010 as he stood on the shoulder of the busy interstate just past midnight in Richfield Township. He had reflective clothing, and drivers were instructed to reduce their speed by 40 miles per hour when entering the construction zone. However, those precautions were not sufficient to ensure the safety of those working in the area, according to the plaintifffs.

The Shelly Company, a leading paving company in Ohio, was responsible for the project. It hired only one police officer to protect the workers, according to the suit, rather than the two officers and police cruiser it had promised. Further, according to the family's attorney, "It was hard for drivers to drop down from 65 mph to 25 mph." He said the victim was working in "ridiculously dangerous" circumstances. The driver who fatally struck the victim was not cited for any violations.

The jury apparently agreed. They awarded the family $39 million. Of that, $20 million are punitive damages and $19 million are compensatory. The company has also been ordered to pay the family's attorneys' fees. In addition to his wife, the victim had three children.

The Shelly Company's attorney reportedly put up a vigorous defense. It contended that the victim, who died at the scene, did not experience any pain or suffering. After the verdict, its attorney said the company "strongly denies it was responsible for the accident" and "intends to vigorously pursue all relief available to overturn this unjust verdict."

However, the plaintifff's attorney noted that the fact that no company officials were present during the stage of the trial in which punitive damages were discussed did not go unnoticed by the jury. He said it exemplified the company's "arrogance."

Going up against a large, powerful, well-funded company is never easy. However, judges and juries are tasked with weighing the facts and deciding accordingly in Ohio car accident and other civil cases, regardless of the resources of the various sides. Experienced personal injury attorneys can help families present their cases effectively to hold responsible parties and entities financially responsible.

Source: The Plain Dealer, "Jury awards $39 million to family of highway paving inspector killed on I-271 in 2010" James F. McCarty, Apr. 04, 2014

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