BEAUMONT – A district judge has been tasked to approve how a $1.75 million settlement in a wrongful death case is divvied up between the plaintiff, her attorneys, and a workers’ compensation carrier.

Individually and as a representative of the estate of Gary Hunter, Debbie Hunter filed suit against Newpark Mats & Integrated Services in Jefferson County District Court.

Mustang Machinery and Caterpillar were also named as defendants.

Court records show Gary Hunter was repairing a backhoe when a Newpark employee turned the machine on, causing the boom to swing the bucket and pin him.

Gary Hunter suffered crushing injuries to his chest. A day after being transported to a hospital, he died.

Caterpillar is faulted for failing to warn users that the boom could move when the backhoe is turned on.

On Jan. 24, Debbie Hunter, through the Provost Umphrey Law Firm, filed a motion for court approval of settlement proceed allocation, stating that the Liberty Mutual Group “refused to consent” to the “reasonable allocation” of the proceeds.

Liberty Mutual, as the workers’ compensation carrier for Gary Hunter, has subrogation interest in the settlement.

Court records show the amount of damages sought in the case was reduced because of evidence of contributory negligence on Gary Hunter’s part and the comparative fault of his employer, Mustang CAT.

“Without these reductions, the value of this case would exceed $6,000,000,” the motion states. “Due to employer and plaintiff negligence, plaintiff reached a tentative settlement agreement with defendants for $1,750,000, subject to approval of the settlement allocation by the Workers Compensation carrier, Liberty Mutual.”

According to the plaintiff’s settlement closing statement, the money should be divided as follows:

PU fees $583,333.33;

PU expenses $25.071.85;

Liberty Mutual – workers’ compensation lien $103,771.98;

Gary Hunter’s estate $937,822.84; and

Debbie Hunter $100,000.

By April 2, 2018, the total workers’ compensation benefits paid will be $168,193.86, the motion states.

The plaintiff is represented by PU attorneys Guy Fisher and Joe Fisher II.

Judge Baylor Wortham, 136th District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. B-199334

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