Ed was a delivery driver and was injured while helping to unload a 2,000 pound electrical switches.  He suffered a “terrible triad” injury to his right arm. He’s had five surgeries, will never have full use of his arm again and has over $180,000 in medical bills. The defendant denied any responsibility for Ed’s injury.  After a week-long jury trial, a jury returned a $1,670,000 verdict in Ed’s favor but found Ed 40% at fault, reducing the verdict to $1,002,000.  The verdict was over five times Ed’s medical bills and significantly more than the insurance company’s final settlement offer, which was $600,000.

Here’s what Ed had to say about my representation:

service review of michael ruppersburg by edwin maust

The Accident

Ed hauled a load of 2,000 pound electrical switches from outside Pittsburgh to Marietta, Georgia. When he got to Marietta, the defendant’s employees began unloading the electrical switches from Ed’s trailer. They used a digger-derrick, which is a type of mobile crane used in the electrical industry.  Even though the unloading instructions for the electrical switches said to rig the crane to the switches in four places, the employees only rigged it in two places.  While the employees were getting the first switch ready to lift, Ed was standing on the end of his trailer watching them work.  He tried to help balance the switch as it was lifted.  Because the switch was rigged with two slings instead of four, it flipped as the digger-derrick lifted it.  Part of the switch caught Ed and knocked him off the trailer.  He fell to the ground, striking his right elbow on part of the trailer as he landed.

This picture shows Ed’s trailer and the electrical switches.  You can see that the switch on the left is rigged with only two slings and has flipped, while the switch on the right is still waiting to be unloaded.

Exhibit 5 Exhibit 4

The Injuries

Ed broke his radius bone and his ulna bone and tore the ligaments in his right arm.  Here’s an x-ray of his arm:

x-ray arm blog

Doctors call Ed’s injury a “terrible triad” because it’s a very bad injury that no one makes a good recovery from.  He had emergency surgery to repair his elbow, which involved inserting an artificial radial head into his elbow and several months later had a second surgery to repair the torn tendons in his arm.

x ray 31_Redacted

He required a third surgery to remove and replace the radial head when it came out of alignment, a fourth surgery to remove scar tissue around the nerves in his arm that was causing him severe arm pain and a fifth surgery to again remove and replace the radial head when it broke.  He has limited use of his right arm and it hurts when he uses it for anything more than regular household activities.  His doctor says the limited range of motion and pain are permanent, that he’s already developing post-traumatic arthritis and that he’s going to need another surgery at some point in the future.


Trial & Verdict

The defendant denied that it was responsible and said Ed was to blame for trying to help unload the switch.  While Ed admitted that he shouldn’t have helped, our position was that the switch would not have flipped if it was rigged correctly and that the defendant’s employees should not have allowed Ed in the “fall zone,” the area where he was at risk of being hurt if the lift were to go wrong.  This is what we proved during trial:

  • The defendant had received the unloading instructions two times before the accident and did nothing to make sure its employees knew the correct way to unload the electrical switches;
  • If the defendant had followed the unloading instructions and hooked up the electrical switch in four places it would not have flipped when lifted;
  • The defendant’s witnesses all admitted they should have followed the unloading instructions;
  • The defendant had safety rules requiring that people stay out of the “fall zone” and a specific rule requiring that people stay 10 feet away from objects being unloaded.  The defendant’s employees broke the rule by not telling Ed of those rules and allowing him to stand on the trailer when the electrical switch was lifted;
  • The employee operating the digger-derrick was legally blind in one eye and the defendant had put a form in his personnel file that stated he was not allowed to operate vehicles like digger-derricks;

After a week-long trial, the jury returned a verdict of $1,670,000 in Ed’s favor.  The jury found Ed 40% at fault, which means the verdict was reduced 40% to $1,002,000.  I’m proud to have represented Ed and helped him obtain this result.