In 2009, Jeff Bayne was severely injured on the job because of his employer’s intentional conduct. Because there was substantial certainty that the employer’s conduct would lead to Jeff’s injuries, the case was allowed to proceed under a very narrow exception in the law. Bayne suffered debilitating injuries which caused him to not only lose his ability to work but lose normal, everyday function. The attorneys at Laird Hammons Laird successfully helped Bayne win the case and the verdict was in excess of $6 million.
The Plaintiff’s Story
It was May 1, 2009. An Oklahoma construction company was assigned the task of laying asphalt on a main road, but they were running behind schedule and needed to complete this stretch to save money and time. Jeff Bayne was on duty as a screed operator. He had been employed there for the past 20 years. His job was to manage the thickness of the road as it came out of the asphalt paver. There were several power lines over this particular road. The company had a safe procedure for laying asphalt under the power lines but chose not to utilize that procedure. The company chose not to follow certain OSHA safety rules, such as using proper signage under the line and a having a designated spotter to alert the driver. None of these precautions were taken that day.
As the machine passed under a power line, the company chose to raise the truck bed into the power line. Jeff Bayne was the only man grounded. The truck bed hit the line, and shot almost 15,000 volts of electricity through the truck bed into the paving machine and then through Bayne’s body. The electricity shot through his hands, feet, elbow, and chin, causing electric burns and internal damage. Once the other workers realized what happened, they moved Bayne off the road, called an ambulance, and then continued to pave the road. The company reported no injuries to the electric company and moved on. The company also instructed their employees to never speak to Bayne again, including the friends he had made over the 20 years with the company. Bayne was injured, abandoned, and unemployed.
Because workers compensation laws prevent suing companies for their employee’s injuries, Bayne’s attorney, Chris Hammons, had to argue this case was within the very narrow exception of intentional torts. The only way to do this was to prove there was intentional conduct that was substantially certain to lead to injury. This was very challenging because the judge limited the trial time to two days. Also, most cases like these never make it to trial because the burden of proof is very difficult to prove – it wasn’t enough to say the company was negligent; Bayne had to prove intentional conduct that was substantially certain to cause injury.
The first part of the solution was to get over the legal hurdle of the narrow exception and getting the case to a jury. Once this succeeded, it was as simple as telling Jeff Bayne’s story. He spoke of his recovery, stating “I can walk 200 yards now before sitting down.” Though Bayne said this in a positive way, it conveyed how much his injuries had handicapped him. Bayne also told his story about being in the burn unit. He spoke of Rosa, the nurse’s aide who stood by his bedside and nursed him back to health. His story was enough to sway the jury and win the case.
The OutcomeThe jury returned a verdict against the construction company for $6.1 Million Dollars.
It is worthy to note, because of the recent changes to the law, this type of case is would be even more difficult to prove in the future. However, if you do get injured on the job or injured because of negligence of a third party, Laird Hammons Laird is ready to help you fight for compensation.