Newtron settles injury suit as trial date nears

David Yates Oct. 21, 2008, 7:23am

One of Bobcat's small excavator models

Rather than take its chances in a Jefferson County court, the last of three defendants chose instead to settle with a man who claims vibrations from a Bobcat injured his back.

The case of Mark Self vs. Premcor et al officially ended Monday, Oct. 20 -- only days before a trial against the suit's last defendant, Newtron Inc., was set to begin.

The trial was on 172nd District Judge Donald Floyd's docket for Oct. 27. The settlement amount was not made public.

Self had received insurance benefits for his injury, but claimed he could no longer work. He was suing for past and future lost wages and mental anguish, court papers say.

Self sued Premcor, along with Newtron and Nationsrent of Texas, in 2004 after he strained his back while operating a Bobcat skidsteer at one of Premcor's area refineries, court documents show.

Self's employer, Barnett Construction Co., had been contracted by Premcor to break up some concrete piers. On May 1, 2004, Self began complaining of back pain. In August 2004, he filed suit, claiming Premcor and Newtron failed to provide him with a safe workplace and negligently allowed him to work on a dangerous vibrating machine.

Self's suit also faulted Nationsrent for placing the Bobcat into the stream of commerce.

Premcor and Newtron fired back, filing responses asserting that Barnett Construction should have rented a machine better suited for the task of cracking concrete. The defendants alleged that if Barnett had placed Self on a bigger machine, such as a backhoe, the vibrations would not have torn up his back.

Nationsrent also filed an answer asserting Self was guilty of not informing his employer that the rented equipment was not suited for the job and was causing him injury.

"(Nationsrent) contends that (Self's) employer, Barnett Construction, was responsible for selecting the proper equipment for the specific task that (Self) was performing," court papers say.

Nationsrent had also submitted a motion for an independent medical examination to determine the extent of Self's injuries, but Judge Floyd declined to sign the company's proposed order.

While Premcor and Nationsrent chose to settle last year, Newtron kept fighting and filed a motion for summary judgment – asking the judge to recognize Newtron had no written contract with Self's employer or premises liability.

However, Self's attorney, Curtis Leister of the Reaud, Morgan & Quinn law firm, filed a response alleging Newtron had "actual knowledge" that the "breaking operation was very difficult and very slow."

"Because of the small size of the (bobcat) … excessive force was transferred back onto the skidsteer and to plaintiff," the plaintiff's response stated, adding that Newtron supervised the operation for Premcor and failed to correct the dangerous condition.

Several months after its motion for summary judgment was rejected, Houston-based Newtron raised the white flag.

The company was represented in part by the Law Offices of Keith Kebodeaux.

Case No. E173-075

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