The Law Office of Louis Grandelli, P.C. recently obtained a $625,000.00 settlement on behalf of a 52 year old Dutchess County resident who was seriously injured while he was unloading granite slabs from a container.
At the time of his accident, Roberto Lopez was employed by Global Granite in Wappingers Falls, New York. Mr. Lopez’s primary responsibilities were to cut and polish marble and granite. On November 9, 2007, a shipping container was delivered by a trucking company, Cobra Logistics, Inc. and its driver, Elving Cruz to the premises operated by Global Granite.
The shipping container was loaded with 46,000 pounds granite. It had been packed and sealed by a company in Brazil before being shipped to the United States. The defendants transported the container by tractor-trailer from Jersey City, New Jersey to Wappingers Falls.
When Cruz arrived at Global Granite’s yard, he parked the tractor-trailer on a slightly sloped area of the parking lot. In an attempt to provide stability for the container, Cruz chocked the wheels, lowered the landing gear on the trailer, and left the trailer connected to the tractor. Cruz then unsealed the container, and Global Granite’s employees began unloading the granite slabs from the container.
While Cruz testified in a deposition that he attempted to re-stabilize the container throughout the day by re-lowering the landing gear, his testimony was contradicted by Lopez’s co-workers who stated that Cruz went into his cab and slept for the remainder of the day, as well as a statement Cruz gave shortly after the accident, wherein he stated that he did nothing further to ensure the stability of the container.
Later that day, Lopez was asked by his supervisor to help unload slabs of granite from the shipping container. This was the first time Lopez had ever been asked to assist in unloading any container. While Lopez was inside the container, the container rocked and shifted, causing approximately 7,000 pounds of granite to fall on him.
As a result of the accident, Mr. Lopez sustained serious and permanent injuries, including multiple fractures of the spine requiring surgical intervention, a fractured femur requiring surgical intervention, injuries to the left knee which required surgical intervention, and various other bodily injuries.
Louis Grandelli, P.C. was retained by Mr. Lopez to pursue a claim against Cobra Logistics and Elving Cruz. Our office promptly filed a lawsuit. At the very start of the case, the defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they owed no duty to ensure Mr. Lopez’s safety during the unloading process. Our office was able to overcome this motion, and the case proceeded ahead.
After a complete investigation and the close of discovery, the defendants again moved to dismiss the case, alleging that they owed no duty to the plaintiff during the unloading process and that they merely delivered a sealed container to the plaintiff’s employer. In addition, the defendants claimed that while not required to take any measures to stabilize the container, Cruz did everything he could by lowering the landing gear of the trailer repeatedly throughout the day. The defendants also argued that the plaintiff’s accident was a result of the negligent unloading of the container by the plaintiff and his co-workers, and not any negligence on their part since they did not supervise or participate in the unloading process.
Our office opposed the defendants’ motion, arguing that the defendants did in fact owe a duty to the plaintiff to ensure the stability of the container during the unloading process based upon the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §388, which imposes a duty on the owner and operator of a tractor for the safety of a connected trailer and container, even if both are owned by another entity. In addition, the plaintiff argued that Cruz, himself, and defendants’ expert, admitted that the delivery driver had a duty to stabilize the container.
The defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied by the Court. The defendants appealed the Supreme Court’s decision, and while the appeal was pending, the case was settled for $625,000.00.