Litigation

But at Least He Got the $10

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Last week a jury in Brevard County, Florida, awarded $76.6 million in damages to a construction worker who was paralyzed from the neck down after he dove head first into a foot of water on a dare. Timothy Hoffman, 20 at the time of the injury in 2003, said his supervisor during a project at Sunrise Village Condominiums in Port St. John offered him $10 to do a "belly flop" off a dock into the Indian River Lagoon. He sued the general contractor in charge of the project, C&D Dock Works, arguing that it inadequately trained its supervisors and failed to warn him of the lagoon's shallowness. The company's owner, Charles Brunty, could not afford a lawyer and made an abortive attempt at representing himself, giving up after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May as a result of the case. It's not clear how much money, if any, Hoffman will actually collect. Brunty gave the Orlando Sentinel a sample of his defense:

"There was no negligence on my part," Brunty said. There was a rail at the edge of the water, he added, indicating a potential danger.

"Why he went into the water, I don't know," Brunty said. "There's got to be some common sense, too."

A local TV station, perhaps out of sympathy for Hoffman, doctored the truth about how he was injured, reporting that "he broke his neck after falling 50 feet from atop a seawall."

[Thanks to Nicolas Martin for the tip.]

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  1. People still doubt me?

  2. Another B.S. verdict from a legal sysytem that is untennable, and corrupt. a place most sane Americans can see is broken. HE WILLFULLY JUMPED! HE IS AT FAULT NO ONE ELSE!!!!!!!!!! dare or not he acted willfully and on his own accord. maybe now he know the dif between a belly flop and a head first dive. Stupid Monkey!

  3. Why have a legal system. if not to reward stupidity?

  4. Darwin,

    Well, he didn’t die. We’ll have to see if he finds some way to reproduce.

  5. The company’s owner, Charles Brunty, could not afford a lawyer and made an abortive attempt at representing himself,

    Yes, the jury was stupid — but if you can’t afford a lawyer, you definitely can’t afford a $77M judgement against you. WTF. I’m sure there are ways for a guy who owns a business to get a loan.

  6. Hate to throw cold water on the hate fest, but anyone working within 6 feet of a drop of 6 feet or more are required by OSHA to be in a fall harness. This responsibility is on the management of the company to enforce this.

    I’m not saying it’s right (in fact, it kinda sucks), but by the letter of the current the law, the employer is liable for this…

  7. “Egon, this reminds me of that time you tried to drill a hole through your head.”

    “That would have worked if you hadn’t stopped me.”

  8. [i]

    Yes, the jury was stupid — but if you can’t afford a lawyer, you definitely can’t afford a $77M judgement against you. WTF. I’m sure there are ways for a guy who owns a business to get a loan.[/i]

    Maybe he can get some TARP money.

  9. anyone working within 6 feet of a drop of 6 feet or more

    Like a stairwell? Doesn’t every office have one of those? I’m going to get really tired of putting on the fall harness every time I have to pee.

  10. Hate to throw cold water on the hate fest, but anyone working within 6 feet of a drop of 6 feet or more are required by OSHA to be in a fall harness. This responsibility is on the management of the company to enforce this.

    No way he would have gotten the $10 if he was still in a fall harness.

  11. When it comes to damage awards and liability, jurors are by and large compassionate idiots. This supports my belief that Americans are too stupid for self-government.

  12. Hoffman must not be a local. When I was a kid, we used to wade out to some of the islands in the middle of the river/lagoon. Except for the channel, the river is barely more than 5 ft deep anywhere, despite being nearly a mile wide. Anybody who would dive headfirst *anywhere* in the Indian River is asking for trouble.

  13. Hate to throw cold water on the hate fest, but anyone working within 6 feet of a drop of 6 feet or more are required by OSHA to be in a fall harness.

    Taktix, you are assuming facts not in evidence, namely, that he was working within six feet of the dock. Its entirely possible that he was supposed to be working 10 yards from the dock, after all.

  14. Fucking morans.

  15. Taktix, you are assuming facts not in evidence, namely, that he was working within six feet of the dock. Its entirely possible that he was supposed to be working 10 yards from the dock, after all.

    I kind of assumed he was working on the dock since he worked for C&D Dock Works. But even if he wasn’t working on the dock per se, I imagine it was part of the “worksite” so the same rule still applies…

  16. So if the “worksite” is within 6 feet of the 6+ foot drop, EVERYONE on the site has to wear a fall harness? Even the secretary in the trailer 100 yards away?

  17. So his lawyer couldn’t find anyone with GL insurance to sue? Moran indeed.

  18. We don’t consider it news if there isn’t a Caylee Anthony connection.

  19. Yes, the jury was stupid — but if you can’t afford a lawyer, you definitely can’t afford a $77M judgement against you. WTF. I’m sure there are ways for a guy who owns a business to get a loan.

    Would you lend money to a business with a pending court case that could result in a settlement large enough to bankrupt it?

  20. Shouldn’t the award have been $76,599,990? After all the dare was to do a belly flop, not a head first dive. They had an oral contract after all.

  21. “The company’s owner, Charles Brunty, could not afford a lawyer ”

    The owner engaged in a major construction project couldn’t afford a lawyer? I find this hard to believe. Didn’t have insurance? Hired this 20 year old idiot?

    No tears here.

  22. Is there some joke about misspelling “moron” that I am not in on, or do some people actually think it is spelled “moran”?

  23. Another B.S. verdict from a legal sysytem that is untennable, and corrupt. a place most sane Americans can see is broken.

    Mmm, yes, it is always a good idea to pretend that you sat in on the case, which was undoubtedly long, full of facts, depositions and judgments, and pretend that everyone in there is an idiot.

    Big Award + Framing Issue as Individual Stupidity = Instant Outrage!

    See also: Stella Liebeck.

  24. Zeb – yes, I believe it originated with Wonkette and this picture.

    Just FYI. I could be wrong on that.

  25. Brunty’s defense sounds pretty sound to me.

  26. But as Angry O points out, I know nothing.

  27. “Is there some joke about misspelling “moron” that I am not in on, or do some people actually think it is spelled ‘moran’?”

    Misspelling “moron” is really stoopid.

  28. “he broke his neck after falling 50 feet from atop a seawall.”

    Man dies after jumping in front of flying bullets.

  29. Mmm, yes, it is always a good idea to pretend that you sat in on the case, which was undoubtedly long, full of facts, depositions and judgments, and pretend that everyone in there is an idiot.
    ____________________________________________
    it does not take a genius to know that the person who jumped ito the lake acted on free will, boss or not, dare or not, it is his fault PLAIN AND SIMPLE! He deserves not even the 10.00 because he dove and did not flop

  30. Many question the choice of not hiring a lawyer. Perhaps the $2k spent on a bankruptcy lawyer was much cheaper than the $20k or more needed to hire one for a civil lawsuit.

  31. Oh, I know, SpongePaul. Everybody is dumber than you, especially the twelve people who heard the case and the judge who sustained* the verdict.

    * – in case you didn’t know, judges can set aside verdicts.

  32. Oh, I know, SpongePaul. Everybody is dumber than you, especially the twelve people who heard the case and the judge who sustained* the verdict.

    * – in case you didn’t know, judges can set aside verdicts_____________________________________

    No common sense was lacking, and if they could not see how wrong it was to award the plantiff money, then yes, i am WAY smarter than them and proud of it. At least i have a sense of self resposabiltiy and expect me myself and I to be held accountable for what i do!

  33. TAO,

    Im pretty sure, but not 100% positive, that “Get a brain, moran” started with fark.

  34. Spur,

    The owner engaged in a major construction project couldn’t afford a lawyer? I find this hard to believe.

    The story doesn’t say it was a large project, it says it was A project. They were probably doing maintenance or finishing work. This was probably a “company” that the guy ran out of his pickup truck. He hired people as needed for each contract.

    I do find the story bizarre. If someone dares you to do something stupid and you do it, your responsible not the other person. Most of us learned this after the “but he dared me to do it” didn’t stop us from getting our asses paddled as children.

    I think this comes from a cultural viewpoint wherein employees and employers are not business partners and social equals but rather serf and lord. Just as a lord is responsible for all aspects of a serfs well being (in theory) by employing someone you become responsible for anything that happens to them that is work related no matter how tenuous. I think the jury found against the defendant because they felt intuitively that as the leige lord he should have prevented his serf from doing something stupid.

    When you make someone responsible for you, you grant them authority over you. People forget that in this everyone-but-me is responsible culture.

  35. For us old schoolers: it would be “What a maroon”.

  36. If the employer had double dog dared him then I could see logic to how the case came out.

  37. No common sense was lacking, and if they could not see how wrong it was to award the plantiff money, then yes, i am WAY smarter than them and proud of it.

    Ah, I take it you’ve read the jury’s findings and the court transcripts then?

    I think Shannon Love has the most constructive criticism of this, but there’s a line between “individuals are individuals are individuals” and “respondeat superior” (the modern doctrine). Yes, I am aware that RS is a doctrine for employers answering for their employees torts, but I’m just drawing an analogy…

  38. 6 feet- 6 feet , OSHA . What about roofers?

  39. Mrs. Hoffman: “Timothy, if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you…”

    “Ma, where’d you say that awesome cliff was?”

    The only thing the employer might be held responible for is the foreman’s goading Hoffman. On the other hand, how many employer’s would think they’d have to tell their supervisors “Don’t encourage the help to jump off stuff” and the employees “Don’t deliberately jump off stuff”.

  40. TaxTix,

    You’re a lawyer aren’t you? This is a discussion among people, not lawyers. That’s why it makes sense.

  41. Stop talking to The angry optomist, it’s obvious he’s a lawyer too.

  42. You know what I hate about lawyers? They always want to know what actually happened.

  43. Would you lend money to a business with a pending court case that could result in a settlement large enough to bankrupt it?

    Actually, if the lawsuit was about a guy who was suing the business because he willingly jumped into shallow water to his near death, why not?

    Has someone already nominated this fellow for a Darwin Award? One of the stories clearly states that he was “eager to have children” but that his fiance left him after he was injured.

  44. The simplistic solution is for the owner to sue the supervisor who made the dare for $76.6 million…even better, can bad judges and juries be sued?

    If the employer had double dog dared him then I could see logic to how the case came out.

    If he had double dog dared him, does that mean that the jury would have awarded $153.2 million?

  45. So the guy gets $76.6millian AND a Darwin Award nomination?

    Some people have all the luck…

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