Do You Have Enough Liability Insurance?

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

While jury verdicts in the Central Ohio area are still fairly modest, at least when measured by national standards, a recent Florida case involving a poorly designed construction zone emphasizes the risk of a huge verdict if there are catastrophic injuries.

In March of 2001, a large contractor and a Florida county made a $57 million settlement payment to a young family where a six year old daughter was killed and three year old twin brothers were paralyzed as a result of a car crash caused by a poorly designed construction zone. A later jury trial awarded the same family $256 million in a verdict against a local police officer who plowed into the family while rushing to the accident scene.

The family sued several parties who allegedly contributed to the accident including the highway contractor who was in charge of road construction and maintaining a safe load of traffic through the intersection. The county had a significant risk of liability because it did not hire a contractor to develop the traffic plan but developed it "in house." Apparently the configuration of the temporary traffic lanes and barricades had been newly arranged on the day of the accident, but the timing of the traffic signals had not been adjusted to account for the increased turning time. In addition, the placement of barricades and construction equipment created blind spots and made it impossible for either driver to see the other until it was too late allegedly turning the intersection into a "death trap."

While jury verdicts of this size are still unusual, it points out the risk associated with catastrophic injuries that can occur on construction sites, particularly those involving construction zones on road building projects.