City Worker Catapulted From Bucket Truck

On September 16, 2009, the plaintiff, a54-year-old city worker, picked up a city-owned bucket truck and brought it to an intersection, intending to paint a street light. He placed the truck on the right side of the road, activated his strobe lights, and placed a traffic cone behind the truck in preparation for this job. He then entered the bucket and used the hand controls to extend the bucket's boom to a position that would allow him to paint both the street light and the cross-bar to which the light was attached. At approximately 8:00 a.m., the defendant, operating an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, attempted to travel between the plaintiff's bucket truck on the right hand side and a vehicle that was waiting to make a left turn onto the intersecting road. As the tractor-trailer passed under the extended boom of the bucket truck, the exhaust pipe and top right corner of the trailer struck the middle of the boom, snapping it in half and catapulting the plaintiff from the bucket to the pavement.

As a result, the plaintiff sustained multiple fractures throughout his body. He remained an inpatient at a nearby hospital/rehabilitation facility for approximately two months post-accident, undergoing a series of operations to repair the fractures. The plaintiff's most significant injury was a right acetabular fracture, which was repaired nearly a year later by way of a right total hip arthroplasty. The plaintiff's orthopedic expert was expected to testify that the plaintiff was permanently and totally disabled due to his injuries, and would be unable to return to his employment as a city worker.

Plaintiff's counsel alleged that the defendant operated the tractor-trailer negligently, in that he should have seen the boom and bucket, but became distracted by the traffic on his left. Defense counsel, however, argued that the plaintiff failed to take adequate safety precautions which would have prevented the accident. For example, defense counsel pointed out the following: The plaintiff chose to extend the boom over an open and active truck route without taking into account the proper clearance level in which to work; he chose to work without any road signs to alert drivers; he failed to have a flag man present at the time; and, he failed to station out the work site in a way as to safeguard the roadway in the normal and customary practice as required by the industry, as well as safety codes promulgated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In an effort to demonstrate that the defendant should have seen the boom, bucket and the plaintiff at the time of the accident, plaintiff's counsel performed an accident recreation on the one-year anniversary of the incident. The video of this recreation was done at exactly 7:58 a.m. with the assistance of the city's police officer who performed the initial accident re-construction. Based on all reports and investigations, the officer positioned the truck and the boom so as to exactly recreate the circumstances of this incident. An exact replica of the 18-wheel tractor-trailer involved in the accident was fit with a camera that was set at eye level for a driver of the defendant's height. The video graphically demonstrated that the boom and bucket were clearly visible to the defendant and that the defendant should have seen the boom, bucket and the plaintiff at the time of the accident, despite the absence of additional warnings.

Eventually, the parties agreed to attend mediation. At mediation, the above-described recreation was shown on a video monitor, along with a detailed display of the plaintiff's damages. In the end, the case settled for $1.65 million; the plaintiff's workers' compensation case is ongoing.