Mudge to hear motions in case over car-hauling rig injury

Amelia Flood Feb. 7, 2011, 7:27am


Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is set to hear motions tomorrow in a Missouri couple's suit against two car-hauling companies over a man's injuries.

The hearing on a motion to quash a subpoena issued to a non-party to the suit is set for 9 a.m.

Plaintiffs John and Jacqueline Thompson are suing Cottrell Inc. and Auto Handling Corp. for injuries John Thompson allegedly suffered while working as a car hauler.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and other relief.

According to the motion to quash, the plaintiffs filed a subpoena seeking documents related to reports on drivers employed by Jack Cooper Transport Company and its affiliates who may have fallen on the upper decks of car hauling rigs and were injured at any time since 1992.

The suit is one of a at least two car hauling rig injury suits now before Madison County judges.

According to his complaint, while working as a car hauler for Cooper Transport in Granite City on Aug. 14, 2008, John Thompson was operating a rig allegedly made by Cottrell.

He claims that due to the rig's lack of safe ladders, walkways and traction, and a lack of warnings, he fell off the rig to the ground.

The fall allegedly left him with severe injuries to his shoulders.

Thompson claims that Cottrell did not comply with standards set down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and designed a dangerous rig.

He claims the company knew that there had been 2,549 slip and falls reported since 1979 that related to the rig and that the company ignored recommendations to change the traction and handrails on the rig.

He claims Auto Handling Corp. was aware that the rig was not safe.

The plaintiff claims the company did not test the rig, and did not warn him of the risk of injury.

His wife is seeking damages for loss of consortium.

The defendants have denied the claims and argued that the venue is improper, among other defenses.

According to the motion to quash filed Dec. 30, 2010, the plaintiffs subpoenaed Cooper Transport by serving its Wentzville, Mo. terminal manager earlier that month.

The company claims that man, Roger Owens, is not the agent designated for such service.

The company goes on to argue that the plaintiffs' request for all reports of drivers employed by Cooper that fell from 1992 onward is unreasonable.

"Cooper Transport is not a party to this case," the filing reads. "It is unreasonable to require Cooper Transport to search its records for the last 18 years to identify reports concerning falls from trailers."

The filing goes on to note that attorneys for Cooper tried to resolve the matter with plaintiffs' counsel but were unsuccessful.

The plaintiffs contend in their Jan. 6 response that the documents requested are needed and timing issues have been resolved.

"JCT (Jack Cooper Transport) can very simply push a button and print out a list of the trailer fleet numbers," the response contends. "There is no undue burden as defendant claims."

The plaintiffs also cite a workers' compensation lien Cooper has sought related to the matter that they claim shows the interest Cooper has in the case.

It argues the plaintiffs gave it too little time to respond the discovery request.

Brian Wendler and Charles Armbruster III represent the plaintiffs.

Dan Carpenter represents Cottrell.

William Logan and Paul Wickens of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper & Hofer P.C. of Kansas City, Mo. represent Auto Handling Corp. Michael Reda also represents the company.

Kelly Snyder represents Cooper Transport as do Reda and Logan.

The case is Madison case number 09-L-1067.

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