Suit over man killed in fall at church transferred to federal court

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 3, 2009, 8:16pm

A wrongful death suit filed by the family of a man killed when he fell from a man lift inside a local church has been transferred from Jefferson County to federal court.

Ricky and Belinda Matak, parents of Walter Pete Logan Matak, and Misty Sonnier, the representative of his estate, claim Walter Matak was killed in an incident that occurred March 30 in Beaumont.

Although the suit does not elaborate on the incident, it alleges Matak's death was caused due to a defective Genie man lift that was designed, manufactured, marketed and inspected by Genie Industries and Terex Corp.

However according to media reports from the date of the incident, Matak, 24, was working inside the sanctuary at Cathedral in the Pines Church off the Eastex Freeway in Beaumont.

An employee of Gulf Coast Electric, he and was doing maintenance in the sanctuary when the lift he was working on became unstable. Matak died when he fell nearly 40 feet to the ground.

The suit was originally filed in state court on May 11 and assigned to Jefferson County Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District Court.

On May 27, the case was transferred to the Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas and assigned to U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield.

According to court documents, the case belongs in federal court because it is a civil action between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

The plaintiffs are citizens of the state of Texas, Genie Industries is a Washington corporation and Terex is a corporation organized under the laws of Delaware with its principal office in the state of Delaware, the suit states.

Because of Walter Matak's death, his parents claim they have suffered mental anguish, loss of his companionship and society and incurred funeral and burial expenses.

Sonnier suffered mental anguish, experienced physical pain and suffering and lost Walter Matak's earning capacity, the complaint says.

Genie and Terex were guilty of negligence and of breach of warranty because they claimed the product was safe when it was not, the suit states.

Ricky and Belinda Matak and Sonnier are seeking an unspecified judgment, plus costs, interest and other relief to which they may be entitled.

At this time, none of the parties has requested a trial by jury.

The plaintiffs are represented by James E. Payne and Jennifer Job Seale of Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont.

Clifford L. Harrison of Harrison, Bettis, Staff, McFarland & Weems LLP in Houston is attorney in charge for defendants Genie and Terex.

Federal Case No. 1:09-cv-426-TH

More News