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Vito Saladino and Annmarie Saladino v. Stewart & Stevenson Services, Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services, Inc. and Stewart & Stevenson Tug, No. 01-CV-7644

Case Name

Vito Saladino and Annmarie Saladino v. Stewart & Stevenson Services, Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services, Inc. and Stewart & Stevenson Tug, No. 01-CV-7644

Type of Injury

NEGLIGENCE

Location

U.S. District Court, Eastern District, NY

Verdict

In November 2008, the jury found that the defendants were liable for the accident. American Airlines was assigned 70 percent of the liability, and the remaining defendants were assigned a total of 30 percent of the liability. Another jury determined that the Saladinos' damages totaled $40,190,417.20.

Verdict Amount

$40,190,417.20

Case Details

Judge: Sandra L. Townes

Date: 07-26-2010

PLAINTIFF(S)

Attorney:

• Nadia M. Chionchio; McAndrew Conboy & Prisco; Woodbury, NY, for Vito Saladino, AnnMarie Saladino

• Jonathan I. Edelstein; Law Office of Jonathan I. Edelstein, New York, NY, of counsel, McAndrew Conboy & Prisco, Woodbury, NY; New York, NY, for AnnMarie Saladino, Vito Saladino

• Kevin B. McAndrew; McAndrew Conboy & Prisco; Woodbury, NY, for Vito Saladino, AnnMarie Saladino

• William J. Poisson; McAndrew Conboy & Prisco; Woodbury, NY, for Vito Saladino, AnnMarie Saladino

Expert:

• Adam Stein M.D.; Physical Medicine; Great Neck, NY called by: Kevin McAndrew, William Poisson, Nadia Chionchio, Jon Edelstein, Jonathan Edelstein

• William Burke Ph.D.; Life Care Planning; Portsmouth, NH called by: Kevin McAndrew, William Poisson, Nadia Chionchio, Jon Edelstein, Jonathan Edelstein

• Alan Leiken Ph.D.; Economics; Stony Brook, NY called by: Kevin McAndrew, William Poisson, Nadia Chionchio, Jon Edelstein, Jonathan Edelstein

DEFENDANT(S)

Attorney:

• David S. Rutherford; Rutherford & Christie, LLC; New York, NY, for American Airlines Inc.

• Marc J. Citrin; Shaub Ahmuty Citrin & Spratt LLP; New York, NY, for American Airlines Inc.

• Mark K. Silver; Coughlin Duffy LLP; Morristown, NJ, for Stewart & Stevenson Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Tug

• Michael J. Sullivan; Coughlin Duffy LLP; Morristown, NJ, for Stewart & Stevenson Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Tug

• Timothy I. Duffy; Coughlin Duffy LLP; Morristown, NJ, for Stewart & Stevenson Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Tug

Expert:

• Edmond Provder; Life Care Planning; Hackensack, NJ called by: Timothy Duffy, Mark Silver, Michael Sullivan

• Frank Tinari Ph.D.; Economics; Livingston, NJ called by: Timothy Duffy, Mark Silver, Michael Sullivan

• Charles Manning Ph.D.; Engineering; Raleigh, NC called by: Timothy Duffy, Mark Silver, Michael Sullivan

• Steven Kirshblum M.D.; Physical Medicine; West Orange, NJ called by: Timothy Duffy, Mark Silver, Michael Sullivan

Facts:

On Jan. 17, 1999, plaintiff Vito Saladino, 36, an airline’s clerk, was a passenger of a “baggage tug” tractor that was being driven by a co-worker, Daniel Snow, who was traveling on a tarmac of John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the Jamaica section of Queens. The men passed a stationary American Airlines Inc. aircraft whose engines were being tested. The engines expelled “jet wash,” which is a turbulent wake of gases. The wake’s force dislodged the tractor’s hood, which struck Saladino’s head. Saladino sustained a paralyzing injury.

Saladino sued the model BT-345G tractor’s manufacturer, Marietta, Ga.-based Stewart & Stevenson Tug, LLC; the company’s parent, Houston-based Stewart & Stevenson Services Inc.; and a subdivision of the parent, Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services Inc. Saladino alleged that the tractor was defectively designed, that the defect constituted a breach of the product’s warranty and that the defendants failed to provide a warning of the dangers that could have resulted from the tractor’s use.

The defendants impleaded Saladino’s employer, American Airlines Inc. They alleged that the airline failed to provide a warning of the dangers that could have resulted from the use of a tractor that was being repaired. They further alleged that the airline failed to provide a warning that disclosed that the jet’s engines were being tested.

Judge Sandra Townes dismissed the claim that alleged that the tractor was defectively designed. She also dismissed the claim that alleged that the tractor’s condition constituted a breach of the product’s warranty.

Saladino’s counsel noted that the tractor’s passengers were supposed to be protected by a cab, but that the cab had been removed by workers who had been repairing the vehicle. They also noted that the tractor’s hood opened toward the compartment that housed the passengers. They contended that the vehicle’s manufacturer was aware that the hood could have struck an unprotected passenger. They claimed that the hazard could have been eliminated by the installation of hinges that would have limited the hood’s movement. They also claimed that the vehicle should have been accompanied by warnings that explained that the hood could strike a passenger.

Stewart & Stevenson Tug’s counsel contended that the tractor’s original design included two rubber latches that secured the sides of its hood. He contended that a third latch was added in 1990. They claimed that the latches would have adequately secured the hood, but that the latches were damaged after American Airlines had established exclusive control of the vehicle. They contended that the airline conducted monthly inspections of the vehicle, and they also contended that the airport’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, performed yearly inspections of the vehicle.

Stewart & Stevenson Tug’s counsel also noted that the tractor’s cab was crushed during an accident that occurred in 1998. They claimed that the vehicle was removed from service, that its license plates were removed and that it received the standard tag that is applied to vehicles that have been removed from service. They contended that Saladino’s accident occurred before the repairs could be completed.

Stewart & Stevenson Tug’s counsel further contended that Saladino and Snow were aware that the hood’s latches were damaged, that the vehicle’s fenders were missing and that the engine’s compartment was missing one of its protective panels. They also contended that the men were aware that the hood was being secured by a strap, and they claimed that Saladino warned that the hood could dislodge if Snow did not maintain a safe speed. They contended that Saladino was a trained, knowledgeable user of the vehicle; that he had previously operator tractors that were missing latches; that he was aware of the danger that could have arisen from driving near a jet; and that he was aware of the powerful effects of jet wash. As such, they argued that Saladino would not have been benefited by any warning that the tractor’s manufacturer could have provided.

Stewart & Stevenson Tug’s counsel also contended that American Airlines failed to provide adequate warnings. They argued that the airline’s employees did not receive a warning that disclosed the dangers that could have resulted from the use of a tractor that was being repaired. They also argued that the airline failed to disclose that the jet’s engines were being tested.

Injury:

Saladino sustained fractures of his spine’s cervical region. The injuries caused compression and instability of the spine. He underwent surgeries that included a corpectomy, which involved the removal of his C5 vertebra; a hemi-corpectomy, which involved the removal of a portion of his C4 vertebra; microdiskectomies, which involved the removal of intervertebral discs; and decompression and fusion of a portion of his spine’s cervical region. He also underwent extensive rehabilitation, which was complicated by his development of bedsores, which are alternately termed “decubitus ulcers” or “pressure sores.”

Saladino suffers total quadriplegia. He requires the constant assistance of residential nurses and aides, and he cannot perform any type of work.

The parties stipulated that Saladino’s past medical expenses totaled $4,908,108. Saladino sought reimbursement of that amount, recovery of his future medical expenses, recovery of his past and future lost earnings, and recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. His wife sought recovery of damages for her loss of consortium.

AnnMarie Saladino

$750,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium

Vito Saladino

$532,309 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability

$5,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering

$4,908,108 Personal Injury: past medical cost (stipulated)

$18,000,000 Personal Injury: future medical cost (24 years)

$1,000,000 Personal Injury: future lost earnings (14 years)

$10,000,000 Personal Injury: future pain and suffering (24 years)

Post-Trial: Motions are pending.