A Railroad Worker for Railserve, Inc., Plaintiff Colby Hines, age 28 years old, and some of his fellow employees were drinking beer after work when Hines and his fellow employees, and possibly a supervisor or two, decided to make a potato cannon. A potato cannon is a make shift bomb made of beer cans, potatoes, and other items that act as projectiles.
The potato cannon was then detonated and, although Plaintiff Hines was on a fire escape 75 feet away from the cannon in an effort to video record the event, he was struck by shrapnel when the cannon malfunctioned and shrapnel travelled through the yard ultimately hitting Plaintiff Hines. Hines was left with a severe and catastrophic brain injury leaving him with aphasia making it impossible for Hines to name things or retrieve words, and he now has seizures and does not have peripheral vision.
There were several issues at play during this case. One was a jurisdictional issue since the injury took place in Kansas yet the employer company, Railserve, Inc., was based in Georgia. The case was brought in Clayton County, Georgia, State Court. Upon a motion for summary judgement brought by the Defendant, Judge John Carbo, III granted summary judgement in favor of the Defendant Employer Railserve, Inc.
The Plaintiff Hines then appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Andrews was adamant that Plaintiff Hines was not entitled to any recovery based on Judge Andrew’s belief that Plaintiff Hines was the “sole proximate cause of his own injuries,” and Judge Andrews held firm in this belief despite the fact that there was evidence that Railserve was negligent by not supervising the premises. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals of Georgia reversed the summary judgement decision in favor of Railserve, Inc. and the case was subsequently tried by a jury in Clayton County State Court.
What was interesting was that, although the case was brought in a Georgia Court of Law, theories of Kansas law that state in pertinent part that an employer has a duty not to expose its employee to dangers that the employer could have prevented by reasonable care were brought into play in the trial. The issues for the jury to decide were then whether or not two (2) of Railserve’s foremen breached their duties of care for failing to insist that the employees, including Plaintiff Hines, who were off the clock, should stop drinking, should not detonate the cannon, and should evacuate the premises.
After four (4) days of deliberation, a jury of ten (10) women and four (4) men returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff for a total amount of $4.3 million. Judge Carbo then reduced the verdict to $2.58 million since the jury allocated partial liability to Hines for the incident. The breakdown of liability was ultimately 61% for Employer Railserve and 39% for Employee Hines.
Despite the fact that the life plan submitted by the Plaintiff could have resulted in a verdict as high as $ 15 million, the Plaintiff also realized that he could have been left with nothing had the jury decided he was more at fault than Railserve for the incident. Therefore, although the Plaintiff may have wanted a higher verdict and the Defendant may have wanted to pay less, but both sides seemed satisfied that the system worked in this case and that each side was apportioned an amount that was fair under the circumstances.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates we are experts at representing people who have been injured, or tragically killed, on or off the job so if you or a loved one have suffered any type of injury whether at work, before work, or after work, then please kindly Contact Us for your free legal consultation. We are here to make sure that even in the most difficult cases that you receive the just compensation that you are entitled to under the circumstances.