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Milwaukee judge rules on wrongful death case

A ruling handed down by a Milwaukee County Circuit Judge an insurance company is responsible for damages against a contractor supervising a project that resulted in a 13 and 1/2 ton panel falling from a county parking garage that claimed the life of a teenager from Greenfield. The collapse of the concrete panel also caused injuries to two others. The trio was on their way to Summerfest.

In a previous court decision, it was determined that a stone company in Random Lake was to blame, with additional liability assigned to a Milwaukee County general contractor. The manufacturer of the concrete panels settled with the family prior to the trial.

The insurers, Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. and Liberty Insurance Underwriters Inc., were not allowed to participate in the trial.

The Milwaukee judge denied several motions for a new trial in the personal injury and wrongful death case from 2010 in which the façade of O'Donnel Park had partially collapsed. The two insurance groups were not permitted to take part in the trial, stating it would provide unfair prejudice to the Random Lake stone company. He recommended holding a second trial to discuss whether the stone company's policies from the barred insurer could cover the damages.

The three families were awarded over $23 million by the courts. The judge also ruled that the stone company would pay $15 million in punitive damages, which will put them out of business. This latter award was later disputed by the company alleging the verdict should be thrown out, since the company was barred from participating in the first trial.

Legal spokespersons for the stone company disputed the decision, stating it could not be bound to a ruling resulting from a trial they were not allowed to participate in.

While several complications are at play in this case, wrongful death caused by negligent corporations or construction companies can result in irreversible and permanent damages to workers or even innocent bystanders. Victims of such negligence and their families need to inform themselves about their rights to to seek compensation.

Source: WisLawJournal, "Judge upholds O’Donnell verdict, cancels insurance trial" Beth Kevit, Feb. 10, 2014

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