Printer Friendly

Worker buried alive, widow wins $3.85M verdict.

Byline: Phillip Bantz

&nbsp;<br />A jury in Union County has awarded nearly $4 million in compensatory damages to the widow of a construction worker who was buried alive, prompting a confidential settlement in the case before the punitive damages stage of the trial began.<br />Charlotte lawyers Jon Moore of Brown, Moore & Associates and Sam McGee of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen represented the widow of Kirk Mitcham, who was killed after being lowered on the bucket of an excavator into a 12-foot-deep trench so he could locate a sewer pipe. <br />When Mitcham, a 46-year-old with a son, two granddaughters and two stepchildren, stepped off the bucket, a wall of the trench collapsed and crushed him. <br />Moore and McGee argued that the general contractor, Bonterra Builders, had knowingly hired an unqualified subcontractor to perform "inherently dangerous" work and left the job site when Mitcham and his fellow workers began digging the trench. Mitcham worked for the subcontractor, which specializes in grading work. <br />Bonterra's attorneys at Baucom, Claytor, Benton, Morgan & Wood in Charlotte did not respond to interview requests. They contended that Bonterra had no reason to believe that the subcontractor would dig such a deep trench, according to Moore and McGee. <br />The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration took no action against Bonterra, but the agency fined the grading subcontractor after finding that the trench was not dug correctly, Moore and McGee said. <br />"The big challenge was our recognition of the likelihood of a contributory negligence verdict," Moore added. "So trying to get the jury to gross negligence was what we looked at as the primary challenge." <br />And they succeeded in convincing jurors that Bonterra was grossly negligent. The jury awarded Mitcham's widow $3.85 million in compensatory damages on March 7. Prior to trial, Bonterra had placed on the table an offer of judgment for $175,000. And before closing arguments on damages, Bonterra offered $1.5 million to settle, according to Moore and McGee. <br />"When people think about gross negligence they think about drunken driving or something like that," McGee said. "But gross negligence is any time that you knowingly fail to fulfill a duty to consciously disregard someone else's safety." <br />Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @NCLWBantz<br />&nbsp;<br />VERDICT REPORT WRONGFUL DEATH<br />Amount: $3.85 million (case later settled for confidential amount)<br />Case name: Estate of James Kirk Mitcham v. BB Carolina Holdings, LLC<br />Court: Union County Superior Court<br />Case No.: 16-CVS-367<br />Judge: Jeff Carpenter<br />Date of verdict: March 7<br />Demand: $1.9 million at mediation<br />Highest offer: $175,000 offer of judgment before trial; $1.5 million before closing argument on damages<br />Most helpful experts: C. William Brewer, trenching and excavation specialist in Hilton Head, South Carolina; Mike Leonard, general contracting expert in Charlotte <br />Insurance carrier: Builders Mutual<br />Attorneys for plaintiff: John Moore of Brown, Moore & Associates in Charlotte and Sam McGee of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen in Charlotte<br />Attorneys for defendant: Brian Wolfe and Clay Campbell of Baucom, Claytor, Benton, Morgan & Wood in Charlotte

Copyright &copy; 2018 BridgeTower Media. All Rights Reserved.
COPYRIGHT 2018 BridgeTower Media Holding Company, LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:North Carolina
Author:Bantz, Phillip
Publication:North Carolina Lawyers Weekly
Date:May 9, 2018
Previous Article:FEO: Lawyers could friend opposing party.
Next Article:Exotic dance club comes up short at 4th Circuit.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters