Editor’s note: This story, written by Jill Odom, first appeared in HWT’s sister publication, “Total Landscape Care.”
Former Pennsylvania landscaper David Williams will receive $26.55 million – the largest ever legal settlement in a Philadelphia County personal injury case – after suing ServiceMaster, TruGreen and other defendants in the wake of a November 2011 accident that left him a quadriplegic.
According to Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky P.C., the law firm representing Williams in the case, the landscaper was driving a company truck when he suddenly lost control and it swerved off the road. In the rollover, he was ejected from the truck and suffered a fractured spinal cord that has required several surgeries.
The 32-year-old father of three sons now requires constant nursing aid and must be awakened and repositioned in bed several times each night. Experts have estimated Williams’ lifetime medical expenses will total millions of dollars.
“David was the picture of vitality and energy when his life was violently turned upside down in that totally preventable rollover,” said David Kwass, a member of Williams’ legal team. “While he has very limited use of his hands and arms, he has no feeling below the chest so he will never again kick a soccer ball, walk on the beach or hike a trail with his boys.”
Williams’ lawyers say the crash was the result of the defendants’ failure to replace bald, dangerous tires on the company truck.
“The defendants were alleged to have knowingly and recklessly permitted a dangerous and potentially lethal bald tire on Mr. Williams’ 2005 Ford-350 TruGreen truck to continue in service after it failed their own inspection,” said attorney Bob Mongeluzzi in a statement.
Williams’ lawsuit against ServiceMaster, TruGreen and Dickinson Fleet Management states that a field-service technician for Dickinson, which services TruGreen’s vehicles, recognized the insufficient tread on the rear right tire of the truck Williams was driving on the day of the accident, yet neither company decided to have the vehicle taken out of service.
“We would have demonstrated at trial how easy it would have been for the defendants – including ServiceMaster, TruGreen (owned at the time by ServiceMaster), and Dickinson Fleet Services LLC, to just do the right thing: remove the truck from service until the hazardous tires were replaced,” Mongeluzzi said. “Tragically, no amount of damages can restore a semblance of normalcy in the shattered life of David Williams.”
As part of the settlement, TruGreen and ServiceMaster will pay $16.75 million, Dickinson will pay $9.5 million, and Brooks Auto Repair, which also serviced the truck, will pay $300,000.
“David hopes that in some way this settlement sends a message to all those who own, operate and/or service fleet vehicles; remember David when you do an inspection, never look the other way when you see a defective tire, worn brakes or some other hazardous condition that can ultimately cost someone their life,” said Benjamin Baer, another member of the law firm representing Williams.