Sean P. Murray
Sean P. Murray

A truck driver who sustained ankle injuries when he fell while manually covering the load on his truck with a tarpaulin has settled his lawsuit for $8.5 million.

The case was finalized on Jan. 21 after mediation by retired Cook County judge and ADR Systems mediator William J. Haddad, according to one of the plaintiff’s attorneys Sean P. Murray of Taxman, Pollock, Murray & Bekkerman LLC.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Burke was also represented by Marc A. Taxman and Jonathan D. Treshansky of Taxman, Pollock, Murray & Bekkerman LLC.

The settlement is higher than any previously reported Illinois ankle injury verdict or settlement, according to John L. Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Reporter, a product of Law Bulletin Media.

On Dec. 9, 2013, Burke, 58, worked as an over-the-road truck driver, often traveling long distances, for Ranco Trucking.

That day, Burke was tasked to pick up a mixed load of rigid steel conduit and electrical metallic tubing from one of defendant John Maneely Co.’s sites in Chicago.

Burke got to the site around 1 p.m. and was scheduled to leave with a loaded truck by 3 p.m., however, the facility was running behind schedule that day. The facility had a policy that any load of steel pipe, tubing and conduit leaving its plant had to be covered with a tarpaulin.

Murray said there were incidents in 2007, 2012 and 2013 where truck drivers had been seriously injured from falls during the tarping process, including one fatality. The company then purchased an automatic tarping machine, which eliminated much of the manual labor involved previously that could result in serious injury.

At the time of the incident, use of the tarp machine was a mandatory safety policy and Burke was aware he needed to use it, Murray said. However on that day a foreman allegedly approached Burke and told him the machine was not working and he would have to manually tarp his load.

The plaintiff alleged that was not in fact the case and the foreman intentionally misled him because the company was behind on its shipments that day and manually tarping the load would have expedited the process, Murray said.

The defense contested that claim, arguing the tarping machine was working that day and it “remained a mystery” why Burke did not use it, according to their attorney Harvey A. Paulsen, of Paulsen, Malec & Malartsik Ltd. in Wheaton.

Paulsen said his client recognized the hazards truck drivers faced and were one of the most proactive shipping companies in the industry by purchasing that machine and requiring its use.

At around 4:45 p.m. that day, Burke climbed on top of his load to place the tarpaulin. As he was pulling the tarp over the load, he lost his balance and fell. Burke sustained “devastating, life altering” injuries to both ankles which have required six surgeries to date.

Since the initial injury Burke still has pain when he walks and he is no longer able to do some of the physical activities he once did including fishing, hunting and bowling.

His attorneys said the result will set he and his family up financially for the rest of their lives.

The case is Jeffrey E. Burke, et al. v. John Maneely Co., et al., 13 L 14342.