Arguments heard for summary judgment in Pontoon Beach negligence, wrongful death suit

By Amelia Flood | May 12, 2009

Three companies entangled in a complex negligence suit attempted to gain summary judgments Tuesday, even in the face of a doubtful judge.

Companies CP/IPERS, YRC and Procter & Gamble Manufacturing are asking to be dropped from a 2007 lawsuit involving a fatal accident in Pontoon Beach.

Madison Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder is presiding. The case has been scheduled for trial in June, according to the court docket.

The set of claims and counter claims stems from a Nov. 19, 2006 accident in which Russell Martin of Four Seasons, Mo. was riding with David Groves of Lake Ozark Mo.

Groves struck a tractor trailer. The truck's driver, Jose Velazquez of Orlando, Fla. had been backing the rig out of a warehouse logistics facility.

Both Groves and Martin were severely injured. Groves, who suffered numerous injuries including a traumatic brain injury, died Nov. 30. Martin, who also sustained a traumatic brain injury, survived.

The suit was originally brought by Martin's wife, Cynthia Martin. She had sued David Groves' estate as represented through his wife, Julia. Cynthia Martin's original suit asked for damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

The suit began to pile on defendants as the plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming Werner Enterprises Inc., a Nebraska trucking company and Velazquez to the suit.

Werner then filed a third party complaint against CP/IPERS, the company that owns the warehouse complex, Procter & Gamble Manufacturing, who leased the warehouse and YRC, a company Procter & Gamble hired to oversee logistics at the site.

The Groves' estate was among those which also filed counterclaims against the three companies for negligence and wrongful death.

Attorneys for all three companies argued that Velazquez and Werner bore the responsibility for the accident that killed Groves and injured Russell Martin. Matthew Reh, attorney for CP/IPERS and Procter& Gamble, disputed the idea that the two companies were at fault and that the state of the facility's lighting and signage was cause of the crash. Reh said also that there was no evidence against CP/IPERS, the leasing company at all.

Attorneys for YRC contended that Velazquez violated Werner's own training procedures by backing up without a spotter on the road.

Attorneys representing Werner, Cynthia Martin, Velazquez and the Groves estate told Crowder that there were too many facts in dispute and that the case should go before a jury.

Crowder told the attorneys gathered that she would review the responses and case laws cited. However, she cautioned, she did not want to raise hopes that the summary judgments would be granted.

She said it was "very troubling" that so many facts were at odds.

Cynthia Martin is represented by Joseph Bartholomew. Werner and Jose Velazquez are represented by Richard Nash and William Brasher of St. Louis. The Groves estate is represented by Thomas Buckley and others. YRC is represented by Michael Kleffner. CP/IPERS and Procter & Gamble are represented by Matthew Reh.

Crowder will hear motions again in the case Thursday.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-224.

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