$4.2 Million Awarded to Family of Man Killed in Forklift Accident

703px-Balance_justiceA Virginia jury last week awarded $4.2 million to the family of a new forklift operator who was run over by his own forklift in 2010.

The jury determined that the Hyster forklift had a negligent design and that Hyster’s parent company, NACCO Materials Handling Group Inc., could be held accountable for the fatal accident because the forklift that killed Jerry Wayne Evans, 39, of Lynchburg, Virginia.

The civil lawsuit stemmed from an incident that occurred Jan. 22, 2010, while Evans was working at International Paper, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Killed by His Own Forklift

Evans was using the Hyster forklift to move large rolls of paper, but his vehicle got stuck and another forklift operator hooked a chain to it to tow it out of its jam, according to Edward Fisher, an attorney representing Evans’ family in the case.

Once Evans’ vehicle was freed, the operator set the parking brake then stepped off the forklift to remove  the chain.

“After he exited the lift truck, the lift truck suddenly and unexpectedly rolled backwards, crushing Mr. Evans between it and another lift truck,” according to the lawsuit.

Evans suffered blunt force injuries and died later that same day.

Parking Brake Focus of Trial

Much of the six-day trial centered on the forklift’s parking brake. Fisher told the jury that Hyster forklift Evans had been driving didn’t have park position and that the parking brake was the only thing that would hold it in place when parked on an incline.

There was a sign on the vehicle that said an alarm would sound if the parking brake wasn’t applied, but there was no alert prior to the accident.

Evans’ attorneys also focused on the methods of applying the brake and adjusting its tension, stating that the handle itself adjusts the parking brake, but it can be out of adjustment and the operator would be able to tell what is the proper adjustment.

Widow and Children Awarded $4.2 Million

After just two hours of deliberation on Monday, March 21, the jury sided with Mrs. Evans’ claim that the forklift that killed her husband had negligent design. She was awarded $2.1 million, with another $2.1 million awarded to her three adult children.

During the trial, it was revealed that Evans had begun a forklift training course, but had not completed it.

There also had been other defendants besides NACCO named in the suit, but they were later released from the case.

Judge David Carson had not signed off on the verdict as of Wednesday. NACCO attorneys have 21 days to file post-trial motions.

NACCO Materials Handling, which spun off of NACCO Industries in 2012, is the parent company of Hyster Company, as well as Yale Materials Handling Corporation.

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