Supply company seeks to dismiss suit alleging truck driver died from dry ice

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Sep 13, 2018

A Supply company argues that St. Charles County would be a more appropriate venue for a lawsuit alleging a truck driver died while transporting strawberries in dry ice.

Paula Johnson, individually and as administrator of the estate of Eric Johnson, filed the complaint Nov. 14 against Prairie Farms Dairy Inc., P.F.D. Supply Corporation and Polar Tech Industries She later filed an amended complaint on July 11.

In her complaint Paula Johnson alleges that Eric Johnson, of Manchester, Mo., operated a courier service and was hired by the defendants to transport strawberries packed in containers of dry ice on Aug. 5, 2016.

Later that day, the decedent was found unresponsive inside the delivery vehicle still loaded with the strawberries. He was located at a parking lot in Missouri. The decedent was brought to a hospital and died on Aug. 8, 2016, the suit states.

The plaintiff alleges the defendants failed to properly pack the dry ice in appropriate containers, failed to provide adequate instructions on how to properly transport and deliver fruits with dry ice, and failed to properly package and seal the dry ice to prevent the escape of noxious fumes.

Polar Tech Industries filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on Aug. 24 through attorney Jeffrey Suess of Rynearson Suess Schnurbusch & Champion LLC in St. Louis.

The defendant argues that Paula Johnson, as the personal representative of the estate of Eric Johnson, is not an appropriate party to bring the cause of action under the Missouri Wrongful Death Act.

On Aug. 14, attorney Bharat Varadachari of HeplerBroom LLC in Edwardsville filed a motion to dismiss under the forum non conveniens doctrine on behalf of PFD Supply.

The defendant argues that the only connection the case has to Illinois is that PFD Supply’s parent company is located in Edwardsville.

“Although defendant PFD Supply is a corporation existing under the laws of the state of Illinois, the PFD Supply facility that plaintiff’s decedent contracted with and collected for delivery is located in St. Peters, Missouri,” the motion states.

The defendant also argues that all records and documents related to the transaction on the date of the accident are kept in St. Charles County, and the decedent was treated by paramedics in St. Charles County.

Further, the decedent was working in Missouri and was collecting packages of strawberries to be delivered from Missouri to a commercial business in Arkansas, the motion states.

“Dismissal of this action from Madison County is required pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. This conclusion is not merely based upon the fact this case has a more significant relationship to Missouri than to Illinois, but, more importantly, because every single private and public interest factor to be considered weighs substantially in favor of a Missouri forum.

“It is undeniable that a St. Charles County, Missouri forum would better serve the convenience of the parties and avoid potential practical difficulties and evidentiary challenges than would Madison County, and that it is the substantially more appropriate forum,” the motion states.

PFD Supply also answered the complaint on Aug. 14, denying liability.

In its affirmative defenses, PFD Supply argues that the Madison County Circuit Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the defendant.

The defendant argues that the plaintiff’s claims are “impliedly preempted by federal law,” are barred for failure to join indispensable parties, barred by the statute of limitations, and barred by the doctrines of estoppel, waiver and latches.

PFD Supply also argues that the plaintiff’s alleged damages were the result of an unavoidable accident for which defendant is not responsible

Prairie Farms answered the complaint on Aug. 14 through Varadachari, reincorporating and restating its prior motion to dismiss the original complaint.

In its prior motion to dismiss, Prairie Farms argued that “it is clear that plaintiff failed to distinguish between Prairie Farms and PFD Supply Company.”

“Prairie Farms is an entirely separate entity from PFD Supply Company.

“Prairie Farms had no involvement related to sale, purchase and packaging of the strawberries that is the subject of Plaintiff’s Complaint,” the motion stated.

Paula Johnson is represented by Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in Chicago.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 17-L-1562

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Organizations in this Story

HeplerBroom LLC Madison County Circuit Court Rynearson, Suess, Schnurbusch & Champion LLC

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