The Largest Verdict for an Injured Worker in 2019 Was Caused by a Single Loose Jam Nut

Daniel Hessel, Esquire, and James Golkow, Esquire, of Golkow Hessel, LLC obtained a net award of $2.198 million on behalf of their client.

On May 29, 2014, Plaintiff Michael Huchko was injured while attempting to climb into the cab of a tractor when the parking brake failed and he was run over by the tractor. He suffered catastrophic injuries, including degloving injuries of tibia and fibula; bilateral femur fractures; left open tibia fracture; operative I&D and ORIF of tibia; bilateral ORIF of femur fractures; left non-occlusive dissection; fractured sacrum and coccyx; acute respiratory failure/blunt thoracic injury; bilateral pneumothorax; bilateral pulmonary contusion and atelectasis; left scapular fracture; left 1-4, 9-11 and right 1st rib fractures.

“The entire case hinged on whether a jury would believe a single loose jam nut caused the parking brake to fail on a 33,000 pound tractor and, if so, whether that loose nut could be traced back to the work the defendant performed on the brake nine months earlier,” Daniel Hessel said. “The turning point came when the defendant’s liability expert admitted that both of these scenarios were 51% likely – effectively admitting Plaintiff met his burden of proof.”

Jim Golkow, who was co-counsel with Hessel, also noted another crucial point in the trial.

“During the direct examination of the treating trauma surgeon, Dr. Ivan Tarkin, the doctor told the jury that he sees the ‘worst of the worst,’ and that Mike Huchko’s injuries were the ‘worst of the worst,” Golkow said. “The doctor got choked up, and told the jury that he got the chills just seeing Mike in the courtroom looking well, and learning that Mike returned to work in nine months to provide for his six children.”

The jury determined that Defendant Baker & Sons was 75% negligent and Plaintiff was 25% negligent, and returned a gross verdict in the amount of $2,931,049. After reducing this amount for 25% comparative negligence, the net award was $2,198,286.75 before including delay damages.

Baker & Sons filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. The Superior Court affirmed the judgment just six weeks later. Baker & Sons paid the judgment in full, including pre- and post-judgment interests and costs.

Shortly before the trial, Plaintiff entered into a confidential settlement with the co-defendant, the company that manufactured the tractor. This amount was added onto the full judgment that Baker & Sons paid.