$29,250,000 Jury Verdict – Wrongful Death at a Recycling Facility

Erik Hilaro worked at a recycling center in Atlanta. His father and brother worked at the same facility. One of the 19-yr-old’s responsibilities was to drive a front-end loader to push leftover scrap metal along the ground to clear space for the next day’s automobile shredding and recycling.

Negligent Recycling Facility Practices

The recycling facility recently decided to begin vehicle recycling to increase their business, but negligently chose not to invest in the standard safety equipment that the recycling industry typically uses to handle the task of gasoline removal from vehicles before they are shredded, known as de-fueling. Instead, they created their own de-fueling process by fashioning a homemade device they called a “puncher” to remove gasoline from old cars before they were shredded. Basically, it was a three-foot metal spike they had welded together with a reservoir around it to catch gasoline from the gas tanks. They lifted up the cars with a huge crane, impaled them on the “puncher” and shook them to drain the fuel. It was not a safe and efficient method of removing the fuel that remained in the vehicles they processed.

They were also negligent in ensuring that the workspace was safe for employees. On the night of the incident, gasoline remaining on the floor from the improper de-fueling procedures was ignited by a spark from the scrap metal being pushed across the floor. Erik never had a chance.

Investigating Atlanta Business Owners’ Negligent De-Fueling Process

Shiver Hamilton used its extensive investigative resources in Erik’s wrongful death case to gather critical evidence the defendant sought to hide from them. Investigators were initially told by management the de-fueling process was safe. They, however, discovered extensive evidence that many employees had expressed fears about workplace safety to their superiors in person and in emails, and that these concerns were ignored. There also had been battery fires and sparks in other parts of the facility. The legal team’s investigation uncovered that employees were concerned about the de-fueling process and even spoke up, but the company did nothing.

Shiver Hamilton also learned during the investigation that after safety concerns were raised, the recycling company went back to the manufacturer of the safe de-fueling system and was quoted around $5,000 for installation. The company negligently valued profits over the safety and well-being of its employees and attempted to hide it from investigators.

This directly contributed to the unusually large verdict and punitive damages awarded by the jury in Erik’s case.

Compensation for Families of Wrongful Death Victims

Shiver Hamilton’s team of experienced Atlanta lawyers represented the family of Erik Hilaro in a wrongful death civil suit against the recycling facility’s insurance carrier. The litigation, which lasted several years, was complex and hard fought. The insurance carrier and recycling center argued that they were immune from being sued as the young man’s employer. The defendant also asked the jury to place 100% of the blame on another employer who they falsely claimed had violated company policy.

Monetary and Non-Monetary Damages Awarded

After an 8-day trial in 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the young man’s estate. The jury found the recycling company 100% responsible and awarded Erik’s family additional punitive damages to punish the defendant for the negligent manner in which the business handled gasoline removal at the facility. The jury judgment was in the amount of $29.25 million. The insurance carrier settled the case confidentially after the jury verdict was reached.

Compensation in a wrongful death case in Atlanta includes both monetary and non-monetary damages. Monetary damages may include lost income over the lifetime of the decedent and costs related to the death, such as funeral expenses or medical bills. Non-monetary damages are intangible items such as the pain and suffering felt by the decedent between the accident and his death, as well as by family members after.

This basically includes the full value of the life that was lost, all the things that make life valuable, all the things Erik and his family will never experience; his companionship with his father and brother who worked with him, and the family of his own he will never have the chance to create.

Holding Businesses and Insurance Companies Accountable

The skilled Atlanta wrongful death attorneys of Shiver Hamilton strive to put grieving families like the Hilaros on an equal footing with insurance companies and corporate defendants. As a result, Shiver Hamilton has won some of the highest settlements and verdicts for wrongful death cases in Atlanta.

Insurance companies representing firms that experienced serious workplace accident injuries or deaths have an adversarial relationship to victims’ families. They immediately and aggressively begin gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and seek to build a defense to protect themselves from liability. Shiver Hamilton recognizes that families of those who have died because of a company’s negligence and negligent practices need a strong advocate through the legal process to protect their rights at precisely the time they are most incapacitated by grief.

Trust a Team of Dedicated Wrongful Death Attorneys

Shiver Hamilton brings compassion and zeal to every case. The firm’s legal team dedicates whatever resources necessary to make sure clients are treated fairly and fight for the justice they deserve. They don’t take quick settlements that leave clients’ families unable to recover from the financial and emotional loss of a loved one’s wrongful death. They know there is more at stake than just a legal judgement, that clients often need counsel across a range of problems and issues that go beyond the particulars of their case.  They value the people they represent as deserving of justice and respect.

The Atlanta wrongful death lawyers of Shiver Hamilton also prepare all their cases to go to trial, alerting insurance companies and corporate defendants that they won’t settle for anything less than full justice for their clients. Preparing the case for trial is the only way to consistently achieve the best outcomes for clients. Opposing counsel must know that Shiver Hamilton’s clients are represented by skilled and experienced trial lawyers with all the necessary legal resources to win jury judgements.

Shiver Hamilton is proud of the outcome in this wrongful death case for Erik Hilaro and honored that the young man’s family had the trust in their firm and the courage to see the case through all the way to verdict.