A jury ordered a Mount Airy lumber company to pay $200,000 in damages to James Jeffery Dobson, of Elkin, who was injured while delivering a load of lumber to the business.
The verdict was returned on Wednesday in Surry County Superior Court, concluding a two-day trial in which the defendant, Mountain Lumber Company Inc., had already admitted liability for the accident, leaving the jury only responsible for determining the amount of damages.
“We were pleased that the jury seriously considered this case and came up with an amount that was fair and reasonable,” said Dobson’s attorney, Sigsbee Miller.
The plaintiff, James Jeffery Dobson, was a truck driver for Miller Brothers Lumber Co. in Elkin when he made a delivery to Mountain Lumber in June 2012.
As a forklift driver employed by the defendant, Terry McBride, unloaded a bundle, one of the bands holding it together broke, causing a 3-1/2” by 8” by 12’ white oak board to come loose and strike Dobson on the head and ankle, knocking him to the ground.
He was treated immediately at Northern Hospital for a head laceration and a broken leg. Extensive swelling caused surgery to be delayed for about a week, which ultimately required a piece of metal screwed to the bone from the ankle to mid-calf, Miller said.
Dobson continues to have facial scarring, nerve damage, weakness, numbness, stiffness and limited range of motion, as well as pain that requires daily treatment with over-the-counter pain relievers.
The damages requested by the plaintiff were for pain and suffering he has endured and will continue to endure, medical expenses that totalled $17,002.03, missed time from work, mileage and permanent loss of function.
In addition to testimony from several witnesses such as Dobson, his wife and the forklift operator, evidence presented included photos of the injury, photos of a bundle of lumber similar to the one that caused the injury, and of the plaintiff’s ankle, the emergency response report, and a video deposition of the surgeon who operated on his ankle.
Earlier in 2015 the defendant moved for summary judgment, on the basis that the plaintiff’s claims for negligence fail as a matter of law.
The defence withdrew that motion during pre-trial preparations and admitted negligence.
Those preparations included reviewing depositions from the owner and yard manager of Mountain Lumber as well as McBride, who “identified a number of ways in which in their perspective the injury could have been prevented,” Miller said, such as the fact that the forklift may not have been large enough to handle loads the size of the one involved in the accident, shortcomings in the forklift’s maintenance and uneven terrain at the lumber yard.
An affidavit from an expert in safety and health regulations stated that the company was in violation of several standards, including ensuring the operator of a powered industrial truck was competent and ensuring that those operators were certified and evaluated regularly.
Additionally, the affidavit noted that the company had a duty to take extra caution with loads reasonably known to be unstable or unsafely arranged, and that management “took no action and didn’t require McBride to take any.”
Terri Flagg can be reached at 336-415-4734 or [email protected]