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Scrap metal seller’s hand crushed at recycling center
Dallas County District Court, 44th
other-thumb; other-fracture; epidermis-numbness; hand/finger-finger; hand/finger-crush injury, hand;
neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation
Worker/Workplace Negligence; Slips, Trips & Falls – Fall from Height
Jeffrey Eli-Thompson v. Commercial Metals Company, and John Doe,
October 26, 2017
Jeffrey Eli-Thompson (Male, 28 Years)
Langdon “Trey” Smith;
Jim S. Adler & Associates;
Jeffrey Eli-Thompson ■ Frank W. Robertson;
Jim S. Adler & Associates;
Commercial Metals Co.
Aric L. Stock;
Lorenzo Guereca, Commercial Metals Co.
On June 15, 2015, plaintiff Jeffrey Eli-Thompson, 28, a self-employed scrap metal collector and seller, went to a Commercial Metals Co. recycling center in north Fort Worth to sell some electrical wire. The wire was in heavy plastic bins, which Eli-Thompson owned. The bins were stackable and weighed about 175 pounds when empty. Once the bins were empty, Lorenzo Guereco, a Commercial Metals employee used a forklift to place the bins back on Eli-Thompson’s trailer. Guereco then climbed onto the trailer to help Eli-Thompson and his friend stack them. Eli-Thompson and one of the bins then fell off the trailer, and the bin landed on his hand, injuring it. Eli-Thompson sued Commercial Metals and Guereco for negligence, alleging that Guereco accidentally either pushed Eli-Thompson or the bin off the trailer or made Eli-Thompson lose his balance. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the defendants alone were at fault. At the time of the original petition, Guereco’s identity was not known, and he was initially named as John Doe. The defendants claimed that they didn’t know why Eli-Thompson or the bin fell, but Guereco had nothing to do with it and was not negligent. Guereco said he had not touched the bins or Eli-Thompson when they fell. The defense also designated Eli-Thompson’s friend as a responsible third party. Defense counsel argued that no one was negligent. In the alternative, he argued that Eli-Thompson was 70 to 80 percent responsible.
Eli-Thompson was taken by air ambulance to the hospital. He sustained a severe crush injury, including fractures, to his left (non-dominant) hand. Two fingers and the thumb were nearly amputated by the trauma. He was hospitalized for about a week, during which he underwent a seven-hour operation on his hand to reattach the nerves and muscles and reduce the fractures. He underwent open reduction and internal fixation with hardware and K-wires, which were later removed when the bones began forming a union. He then underwent several months of outpatient rehabilitation with the surgeon. His last treatment was in November 2015, and he was released. The doctor placed no restrictions on his activities. Eli-Thompson testified at trial that he still has numbness and tingling in some of his fingers; that he cannot golf or go deep-sea fishing anymore; and that he can no longer perform all of his work activities. Also, the injuries and surgery left scars on his hand. He sought about $110,000 for past medical bills. He also claimed past and future physical pain and mental anguish, past and future physical impairment and past and future disfigurement. His attorneys asked for a total of $680,000. The defense acknowledged that Eli-Thompson sustained a severe injury and almost lost his hand. However, the defense argued that he made a great recovery. The defense emphasized that the doctor did not restrict his activities and that the plaintiff sought no treatment after November 2015. Also, the scars were not very noticeable, according to defense counsel. Defense counsel suggested that, if the jury reached the damages question, it should award the past medical bills and $10,000 to $25,000 for each of the other categories.
The jury found no negligence on the part of the defendants, Eli-Thompson or the responsible third party.
Bonnie Lee Goldstein
This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel. Plaintiff’s counsel declined to contribute.