Court awards nearly US$4M to man, his wife for injuries man received while unloading logs at former Smurfit-Stone pulp mill near Missoula, Montana, in 2008; RockTenn, which acquired Smurfit-Stone, exploring options, not saying if it plans to appeal
January 16, 2014
– A Montana jury has awarded nearly $4 million to a man and his wife over injuries he received in 2008 while unloading logs at a pulp mill.
The Missoula County jury deliberated two hours Wednesday before delivering its verdict that Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. and a subsidiary owed Allen Ginn and his wife, Laurie, that much for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering and the loss of his established course of life.
"There are very few verdicts in Missoula County that are higher than this," said Zander Blewett, Ginn's attorney. "I'm not saying that there aren't any, but none come to mind at the moment."
Smurfit-Stone was the largest producer of cardboard box materials in North America before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 and closed its Montana operations early the next year. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2011 and was acquired by Norcross, Ga.,-based RockTenn.
RockTenn spokeswoman Robin Keegan said the company is disappointed in the outcome of the trial but did not say whether an appeal is planned.
"We will continue to explore all our options with regard to defense of the matter," she said.
Ginn, 52, owned two logging companies at the time of the accident. He was delivering a truckload of logs to the Smurfit-Stone pulp mill outside of Missoula when one of the logs "sprung loose" while the shipment was being unloaded and struck Ginn, his lawsuit alleged.
The log struck him on his head and body, causing a brain injury, fracturing his back in three places and fracturing his pelvis, Blewett said.
Now, Ginn has seizures, suffers from a loss of memory and cognition and can't stand for long periods of time, Blewett said.
The lawsuit alleged the accident could have been prevented, but Smurfit-Stone failed to provide a rack that is normally used to safely unload logs. Instead, the load was released without first being secured, according to the lawsuit.
Missoula District Judge John Larson entered a default ruling in 2012 that Smurfit-Stone was liable for Ginn's injuries. A jury trial began Friday and ended Wednesday to determine the damages.
Attorneys for Smurfit-Stone had argued for a lower compensation because Ginn had been in a 2004 traffic accident that injured him so badly that his future earning capacity was already reduced and he was already going to incur some medical expenses.
Blewett declined to say how much of the $3.97 million award will go toward legal fees.
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© 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.