$900,000.00 Settlement

Wrongful Death / Workers' Compensation

July 2011

Caption: Tina Collins, Jesse Collins, Michael Collins, Christina Collins, Cody Collins v. Austin Crawford, Russell O'Laughlin, Cindy O'Laughlin

Court: Lewis County Circuit Court (MO)

Case Number: 08LE-CV00245

Injuries Alleged: Death

Plaintiffs' Attorney: James Montee, Montee Law Firm, P.C., St. Joseph, Missouri

Missouri wrongful death attorney, James Montee, has resolved a wrongful death claim on behalf of his clients in Lewis County, Missouri. The family of Christopher Collins, killed on the job in a cement truck accident, has settled the wrongful death case for $900,000.

While working for Leo O'Laughlin Inc., as a cement truck driver, Collins was required to train a new hire, Austin Crawford. On May 23, 2007, while riding in a cement truck for purposes of training the new hire, Collins was seated in a plastic chair, unrestrained, in the passenger section. The new hire was driving the truck, with a full load of cement, on Missouri 6 in Lewis County, Missouri, when he drove the truck off of the right side of the road, overcorrected, and crashed the truck into a ditch. The truck flipped, ejecting Mr. Collins. As a result of the accident, Mr. Collins suffered a fatal neck injury.

A wrongful death suit was filed against the new hire, Mr. Crawford. The plaintiff's originally pursued Mr. Crawford under the "something more" theory of liability that, in very limited circumstances, allowed suit to be file against a co-employee. Plaintiffs later amended the petition, adding the company owners, Russell and Cindy O'Laughlin, and dismissing Mr. Crawford, alleging that the O'Laughlins placed the plastic chair in the truck to provide a seat and allow Mr. Collins to ride along and train Mr. Crawford.

The Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging co-worker immunity. While the motion was pending, the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District in August 2010 issued its decision in Robinson v. Hooker. Hooker held that co-workers and supervisors of injured employees can be held liable for civil tort claims.

After the appellate court issued the Hooker decision, Plaintiffs amended their wrongful death petition, bringing Crawford back into the case. The case was mediated, and a settlement was reached under which the Defendants waived any subrogation rights in the amount of $150,000.00, previously paid to settle Collins' workers' compensation claim, and agreed to pay an additional $750,000.00 to resolve the wrongful death claim.