A 34-year-old man who was left a quadriplegic after a 1985 automobile accident has been awarded $4.2 million in a lawsuit he filed against the state and a contractor.
A 3rd District Court jury decided LeGrand Johnson Construction Co. of Logan was negligent in not marking and maintaining a dangerous construction area. The company was under contract with the state to repair I-15 when the accident occurred.An attorney for the construction company said efforts to have the award overturned had begun.
Daniel McCorvey filed the lawsuit after he rolled his car on a desolate stretch of the interstate in Millard County where LeGrand Johnson Construction Co. was repairing the roadway.
The construction company had been sealing the roadway with rock chips, said McCorvey's attorney, David Olsen.
Motorists usually are diverted from construction areas into another available lane or cautioned to keep their speed to about 25 mph, but no such precautions had been taken in that case, he said.
McCorvey contended he and a friend, Vaun Paul Page, hit the strip of gravel traveling about 55 mph. He said gravel flying up from a passing car caused him to move onto the shoulder of the freeway, where the loose gravel caused his car to go out of control, flip and eject both men.
McCorvey's neck was broken, and Page suffered a broken back that left him a paraplegic, Olsen said.
"The construction company left the highway open for travel at freeway speeds," Olsen said. "They just didn't control the traffic. They should have closed the lane, and I think that was obviously also apparent to the jury in this case."
Testimony suggested the precautions necessary to make the stretch safe would not have taken the construction company very long, he said.
"They said it wouldn't have been convenient," Olsen said. "I don't think it would have taken them very much time at all."
He said McCorvey, who has a journalism degree and worked as a helicopter mechanic before the accident, will require as much as eight hours of care a day for the rest of his life and will have to modify his home to accommodate his condition.
The jury decided LeGrand Johnson Construction Co. was 50 percent responsible for the accident, the state 28 percent responsible, McCorvey himself was 10 percent responsible and the driver of a second car was 12 percent responsible.
The breakdown affords McCorvey 78 percent of the award, or $4.2 million.
The state's share is $1.5, although a governmental immunity statute prevents the state from offering any more than $250,000, said Hal Christensen, chief of the state attorney general's litigation division.
He said he did not know if the state would appeal the decision, but said Page's case had already been settled out of court for $50,000.
"I think the award, for the injuries involved, is just," Olsen said. "With his injuries, he'll never work again. He's incurred a large amount of medical bills and lost a lot of wages.
"I don't think anyone in the courtroom, seeing what happened to Mr. McCorvey, felt like this was an unjust award," he said.