On September 25, 2008, the plaintiff, a 47-year-old male, was employed by a temporary employment agency and working at an auto parts warehouse. At worksite where the accident happened, he was in the process of receiving a pallet of auto parts that had been hoisted by forklift and delivered through a receiving gate on the second floor. The gate was designed to remain in the closed position at all times except when transferring pallets from the first to the second floor level of the warehouse. The forklifts on the first floor would typically lift the pallets up to this “gate” on the second level, and push the gate open. Then, (after the pallets were placed on the second level past the clearance of the gate), the gate’s doors were to swing back to the closed position. Investigation revealed that after years of use, the receiving gate was in disrepair and was caused to remain partially open at all times. A plant manager testified that the receiving gate had been in a state of disrepair for several years preceding the plaintiff’s accident. The plaintiff was in the process of using a pallet jack to move the delivered items when he accidentally fell through the open gate and plummeted nearly 10 feet to the concrete floor below.
The plaintiff was initially treated by emergency medical technicians who found him unconscious and bleeding from his nose. Once at the hospital, he was diagnosed with “multiple trauma” including a skull fracture, closed head injury, fractured clavicle, fractured scapula, and numerous fractured ribs. He remained at the hospital in excess of one month during which time he exhibited occasional bouts of confabulation and disorientation. For example, while at the hospital he articulated his belief that he was injured when he was hit by a pitch at a Red Sox fantasy camp. In another instance, he expressed his belief that he was injured due to falling off a ladder while intoxicated. He was released from the hospital only after these complications ultimately abated.
Upon his eventual discharge from the hospital, he engaged in both occupational and physical therapy for several months, all the while making remarkable progress. Apart from developing a mild case of tinnitus, he steadily regained his baseline health and seemingly made a near-full recovery. Within 7 months of his accident, the plaintiff was again able to independently care for all of his needs. He was soon cleared by his physicians to return to work. Within 9 months of his accident, he placed 4th in a statewide chess tournament.
The defendant asserted that the plaintiff’s comparative negligence contributed to the accident. Numerous co-workers were prepared to testify that the plaintiff was acting recklessly immediately prior to the accident. Moreover, it was alleged that the plaintiff’s remarkable recovery precluded any credible claim of a prolonged or permanent disability.
The case settled at mediation for $891,716.00