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Jury Awards $1.7 Million to Sanitation Worker

See California State Bar Coverage in Trial Style

Trial Style In May 2006, a jury in L.A. County Superior Court awarded $1.7 million to a worker who was permanently crippled when a trash bin fell as it was about to empty its contents into a waste-disposal truck.

The 500-pound bin knocked Ramiro Serrano unconscious and broke his neck. Serrano - a 45-year-old father of four who had been on the job for 17 years - was permanently disabled. Today he has difficulty putting on socks and performing other routine tasks.

Attorney Roger L. Gordon and co-counsel Vincent Vallin Bennett presented testimony that the manufacturer of the truck, Amrep Inc., knew that such an accident could easily occur, but did nothing to prevent it.

Evidence revealed that the truck design did not incorporate any hooks, latches or even a non-slip surface on the forklift that could have prevented the accident. Instead, Amrep trucks rely on gravity to keep the bins in place.

"This devastating injury could have been prevented with some forethought by the manufacturer," said Gordon. "We hope this decision gives companies pause before releasing a potentially hazardous product."

One of Serrano's co-workers testified that everyone who operates similar trucks drops bins by mistake from time to time, and the defendant's own experts acknowledged in trial that operator errors are inevitable.

Gordon demonstrated several simple, inexpensive safety devices that could eliminate the risk of serious harm to workers, as well as pedestrians and other drivers near trucks emptying their bins.

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