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$13M award for man crushed by machine affirmed on appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District on May 16 affirmed a $13 million verdict for the family of a man crushed to death by the cab of a machine he was attempting to repair.

However, the court’s May 16 ruling shaved nearly $700,000 in interest off the award for the survivors of Wayne Church, who died in 2016 while working on a skid steer manufactured by CNH Industrial of America.

Due to a broken latch, the machine’s 475-pound cab fell on Church while he worked. At trial, Church’s family argued that flaws in the machine’s safety features led to his death.

The award of $3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in aggravating circumstances damages set a record in Henry County. The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Chandler Gregg and Nick Smart of Strong-Garner-Bauer in Springfield, who also argued the case on appeal, were honored for winning the third largest verdict of 2020, as tracked by Missouri Lawyers Media.

On appeal, CNH argued that a different version of a comparative fault jury instruction should have been used and that the trial court had erred in admitting some evidence and expert testimony. The Western District, however, said the defense’s proposed instruction was deficient and that it had failed to properly object to the evidence at trial.

However, the appeals court agreed that the defendant wasn’t liable for a portion of the post-judgment interest. CNH had appealed shortly after the November 2020 trial, but the Western District sent the case back to the trial judge to apportion the damages between the beneficiaries.

The Western District said the case didn’t become final until the amended judgment was issued more than a year later. As a result, CNH won’t have to pay the $693,651.28 in interest that accrued during that time.

The case is Church v. CNH Industrial of America LLC, WD85103.

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