Widow files $3.5 M suit against crane company

Marilyn Tennissen Jul. 9, 2007, 7:39am

The wife of an iron worker crushed by a crane load says there is no way to determine the value of a "husband and good man," but she is seeking $3.5 million from the crane company that she claims is responsible for her husband's wrongful death.

Donald Price was a union iron worker hired in Texas by Deep South Crane & Rigging Co. to work on a temporary project in Kansas. While getting equipment ready to perform a job, Price was crushed by a load off a crane and later died from his injuries.

Kathleen Price, individually and as executrix of the estate of Donald Price, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Deep South Crane in Jefferson County District Court on July 5.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, on Feb. 2, 2007, an employee operating a Link-Belt, 60-ton hydraulic boom crane at the job site "was not trained on the crane's computerized system."

The petition says that the crane kicked out while a load, thought to be the counter-weights, was suspended.

"The crane's computer had been set for 'jib-out' when the jib was in the 'jib-stowed' position. Mr. Price was between one of the weights being lifted and other stacked materials when the weights slid and struck Mr. Price. He was crushed by the load," the petition states.

The plaintiff claims that the crane had not been inspected prior to use leading to the death of Mr. Price and that the employer did not have the crane hand signals posted at the job site.

"Mr. Price was severely injured and was rushed to the hospital," the petition states. "He lingered for days attempting to hang on for his life but the injuries consumed him and he died from crushing injuries including fractured ribs, pelvis, deflated lungs, torn renal artery and damage to internal organs."

The suit alleges that the company's conduct was "more than momentary thoughtlessness, inadvertence or error in judgment" and that the defendant is guilty of gross negligence and malice.

"Defendant exhibited such an entire want of care which raises the belief that the acts and omissions were the result of extreme conscious indifference to the rights or welfare of the people or persons affected by it," the plaintiff alleges.

And while Mr. Price was covered by workers compensation insurance, the plaintiff claims the defendant's conduct "rises to a level which is an exception under the worker's compensation scheme" and she is therefore seeking exemplary damages.

"Upon the trial of this cause, it will be shown that as a result of the act and omissions of defendant, Mr. Price suffered excruciating pain for several days. Defendant's conduct was such that it must be punished because it lead to the death of Mr. Price," the suit says. "Although the life of a husband and good man cannot be adequately determined, plaintiff seeks the sum of not less than $3.5 million."

Joe Meyer of Meyer, Knight & Williams LLP of Houston is representing the plaintiff.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield of the 136th District Court.

Case No. D179-614

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