An Indiana man who was injured on the job has been awarded $48 million in damages. 42-year-old Anthony Arciniega of Westville, Indiana, fell from a ladder at ISG Burns Harbor, the steel mill (now known as ArcelorMittal) where he is employed. The fall, which occurred on November 20, 2004, rendered Mr. Arciniega paralyzed from the waist down.
Court documents state that the ladder from which Arciniega fell was covered with refractory concrete, which constituted negligence on the part of subcontractor Minteq International. Minteq produces materials for surfaces or applications exposed to extreme high temperatures.
“This tragedy was not the fault of Mr. Arciniega. It was the fault of others and the jury saw that,” Arciniega’s attorney, Kenneth Allen, was quoted as saying in Chicago’s Post-Tribune.
Jurors heard testimony from Arciniega’s doctors and peers, who told them how Arciniega returned to work in a wheelchair after six months, even though he still suffered from nerve pain.
“I had to support my family,” Arciniega said during the trial. “Part of my responsibility as a husband and father is to put food on the table.”
Arciniega’s wife Sarah, who is a registered nurse, found employment at a nursing home and was able to keep the family afloat, even though she also had to help care for her handicapped husband and three children.
“Every day is a struggle for us but this verdict will make our lives much easier,” Sarah Arciniega said after the verdict.
Because of Worker’s Comp. regulations, Arciniega could not sue his employer directly, but he was able to hold Minteq, a third party, liable. The jury placed fifty percent of the blame on Minteq and fifty percent on the steel mill, which means that Arciniega will only collect half of the $48 million. Arciniega’s attorney will seek post-trial to have 100 percent of the fault attributed to Minteq so that Arciniega may collect the full amount.
John W. Patton, Jr., an attorney for the defense, told the Associated Press that Arciniega “played the sympathy card from the bottom of the deck and it appeared to overwhelm the jury in a way that justice is not done for all the parties.” He plans to appeal the verdict.
Arciniega issued a statement saying “I’m thankful to the jury and for the hard work of my lawyer, but I’d give it back and then some if I could have my legs back.”