A Phillipsburg man was awarded nearly $6 million for injuries suffered when a large tree limb dropped onto their car in 2006.
Kenneth Matlock is permanently disabled and can no longer work as a truck driver, his career for more than 20 years.
On July 4, 2006 Matlock, his wife and three children were travelling on Route 29 when the limb from an oak tree, fell onto their car. Matlock and his wife suffered broken necks and he lost the use of his right hand after the limb fell from a height of about 20 feet. Kenneth Matlock, now 43, lost control of the SUV, which continued north 220 feet until hitting a guard rail on the opposite side of the road.
The couple sued the township, the county and the state Department of Transportation which maintains the state Route 29 as well as the adjoining property owners. It was later decided that the tree was in the state’s right-of-way and the suit against all other defendants was dismissed.
The suit claimed that the defendants failed to maintain the property next to the road, including the trees, and/or neglected to warn drivers of a hazardous condition which they knew of and didn’t fix.
According to DOT’s report, the tree limb was “hollowed out” and the tree was described as “rotting,” according to the attorneys. Additional information obtained during the course of legal proceedings disclosed that there had been 55 reports of tree-related incidents along Route 29 in the two years before the incident. Several of the “tree down” reports involved occurrences very close to the site of Matlock’s accident.
DOT personnel were on the scene at these other incidents and had an opportunity to carry out an inspection which would have revealed the existence of the huge, overhanging tree limb which fell onto the Matlock vehicle, but nothing was done, even though the state admitted that a maintenance crew supervisor was responsible for identifying trees which posed a potential hazard to motorists, the attorneys said.
Among the witnesses presented by plaintiffs was a certified tree expert who testified that the tree limb which hit the Matlock vehicle was at “high risk for failure,” that the state should have known of this dangerous condition, and that the condition should have been corrected well before the date of the accident. A professional engineer testified that DOT failed to conduct a competent inspection and maintenance program for trees, which would have identified dangerous trees and tree limbs and therefore avoided the incident.
The jury unanimously agreed the state Department of Transportation was negligent for not removing the tree and awarded $5.961 million in damages to the Matlocks. With interest the award totals more than $6 million.
If you or a family member has been injured because of the fault of someone else; by negligence, personal injury, slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, trucking accident, drunk driving, dangerous and defective drugs, bad product, toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Car Accident Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.