Paccar building. Photo By Brianhe (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

Jury awards $20M in negligence suit against Bellevue company

A Chicago jury awarded $20 million in damages on June 28 to a man who sued Bellevue-based truck manufacturer Paccar, Inc. for negligence after the hood of a truck slammed onto his head and caused him to lose his right eye.

The 31-year-old driver, Quentin Ravizza, was driving a Kenworth 1997 T-800 tow truck on Jan. 23, 2012 in Summit, Illinois, when the truck developed a mechanical problem, according to court documents filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

Ravizza stopped the truck, went to the front of the truck and pulled open the hood to look for the cause of the mechanical issue. While the hood was tilted open at a 90-degree angle, Ravizza looked under the hood on the driver’s side of the truck, when a gust of wind caused the hood to slam onto his head, the documents continue. The hood pushed Ravizza’s head down into the engine of the truck. As a result, he suffered severe facial fractures and permanent injuries, including the loss of his right eye.

Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C. filed suit on behalf of Ravizza against Paccar and its Kenworth Truck Company operating division on Feb. 8, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The suit alleged that Paccar was negligent for designing, manufacturing, distributing and selling a truck without a locking mechanism or safeguards to prevent the hood from unexpectedly closing while being serviced, according to the documents. The suit also claimed that the Bellevue company failed to provide adequate warning to drivers of the danger of the hood unexpectedly closing.

Paccar denied those claims.

The suit also added another count of negligence against defendant District Rebuilders, Inc., the corporation responsible for maintaining the truck prior to Ravizza’s injury.

When the case went to trial on June 5 in Cook County Circuit Court, Ravizza’s attorneys, Christopher Hurley and Mark McKenna, argued that Paccar had received claims from other drivers who had been injured by collapsing truck hoods since the late 1980s. One of those drivers from Conoco Inc. invented a safety bar to prop the truck hood open in 1991, according to the documents. Conoco provided the safety invention to Paccar and the company’s chief engineer acknowledged that the safety bar would be placed on Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks in the future. However, Paccar did not incorporate the safety mechanism on Ravizza’s T-800 model truck, Hurley and McKenna argued.

During the trial, Paccar claimed that its trucks were safe, and that it had installed a hook and cable safety device on Ravizza’s truck when it was manufactured, however, that device had been removed at a later date. Paccar’s attorney, Paul Wojcicki of the Chicago firm Segal McCambridge, stated that District Rebuilders should have replaced the missing device.

The jury awarded Ravizza $10 million in compensatory damages for the loss of his eye, as well as $10 million in punitive damages from Paccar.