On behalf of Weisman, Kennedy & Berris Co., L.P.A. posted in Wrongful Death on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Motorists throughout Ohio uniformly know that state roads and highways are constantly seeing infrastructure upgrades, whether that entails new road surfacing, bridge enhancements, shoulder improvements or some other safety-related matter.

As such, drivers routinely encounter construction zones in which employees are working and where extra caution needs to be exercised. It is imperative that such zones be clearly marked and rendered safe through decreased speed limits, ample space for entering and exiting, adequate lighting and so forth.

A wrongful death case that just concluded in a Cuyahoga County court underscores the need for exacting safety measures in all Ohio construction zones. It further serves as a cautionary tale to defendants that flout safety requirements and are perceived by juries as being negligent in their efforts to adequately protect workers.

The material facts in the case, which concluded with a jury verdict just last week, are clear. A paving inspector was struck from behind by a driver as he was working in a construction zone in the early morning on July 27, 2010. The accident, which killed the inspector, occurred on I-271 in Summit County. The driver was not criminally cited.

The focus of wrongdoing centered instead on the inspector’s employer, The Shelly Company, a large Ohio paving enterprise. The company failed to position the requisite number of highway patrol officers it was supposed to have hired that night at the proper zone locations. As a result, drivers were reportedly not given adequate warning regarding speed limit reductions within the zone.

The jury apparently agreed with the assessment of the plaintiff family’s attorney that Shelly’s lack of ensuring safe working conditions that evening rendered the zone “ridiculously dangerous.”

The man’s family was awarded $39 million for his wrongful death, with $20 million of that amount being assessed as punitive damages against Shelly.

The company states that it will appeal the verdict.

Source: The Plain Dealer, “Jury awards $39 million to family of highway paving inspector killed on I-271 in 2010,” James F. McCarty, April 4, 2014