Trucker Who Lost Frostbitten Leg Files Suit Alleging “Heaterless Truck” Led To Amputation
Colombiana County, Ohio – A trucker who had to amputate part of his leg after contracting frostbite is suing the trucking company he says is partly responsible.
Truck driver David R. Lawton Jr. filed a suit in the Court of Common Pleas in Columbiana County, Ohio last month naming St. Louis-based Hogan Transport (Hogan Personnel and Hogan Dedicated Service) as defendants.
Lawton alleges Hogan Transport provided him a truck without a working heater and sent him to make a delivery two days early, which ultimately led to his contracting frostbite on a cold winter’s night last February.
The truck driver was then advised by his doctor that part of his lower leg would need to be amputated.
Lawton consented and a “below-the-knee” amputation was performed.
Lawton filed a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to cover his medical expenses, which under Ohio law, also includes a one time payment of approximately $139,000 for the loss of part of his leg.
However, Lawton’s claim was denied on three separate occasions.
His attorney, Eric Tayfel, tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) in an exclusive interview, it is a “travesty” Lawton’s claim was denied.
“I think it’s disgusting that a major transportation company would fight this claim and go to the extent of misleading an administrative body, and ultimately a jury, just to save money,” Tayfel said. “I plan to hold them accountable.”
What The Suit Alleges
According to the suit, Lawton was hired by Hogan in January 2018 and on February 1, 2018 he picked up a load from his employer’s Zanesville, Ohio terminal.
Lawton’s first delivery that day was to a Dollar General in Homeworth, Ohio.
He arrived at 3:18 p.m., but was told by the store’s general manager, Cathy Noble, she was not expecting him for another two days.
Per the contracted delivery schedule, the load was not supposed to be delivered until February 3rd and no earlier than 10 a.m.
Lawton claims he was provided a different schedule by his dispatcher and instructed to deliver the load on the day and time he arrived.
Noble refused the load, but agreed to take the load the next morning and indicated Lawton could park in the lot overnight.
Lawton then claims he stayed overnight in the cab of his truck, but there was one problem.
The heater in the cab of his truck, he alleges, was not working properly.
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To keep warm, Lawton contends he tried to make the best of it by using a butane stove to keep his feet and legs warm throughout the night.
According to the suit, Lawton claims the temperature that evening reached -9 below F.
However, testimony in Lawton’s workers compensation hearings indicated that Accuweather reflected the temperature that evening was +19 degrees F.
Lawton then claims he called Hogan’s Road Rescue service at approximately 1:00 a.m. to make them aware of the situation and was told “there was nothing they could do.”
However, during Lawton’s first workers compensation claim hearing, evidence was introduced by Hogan that Lawton’s first contact with them about the situation was later that morning.
Hogan alleged Lawton was either not telling the truth or was not remembering accurately.
According to the findings of the Deputy assigned to work the claim, Lawton’s first contact with Hogan about the malfunctioning heater was at “6:41 a.m. or 7:41 a.m.”
Further, the Deputy found Lawton’s claim that the heater malfunctioned to be “equivocal and unpersuasive.”
Lawton claims he completed the delivery at 8:15 a.m. the morning of February 2nd and sought medical treatment on February 4.
He was diagnosed with cellulitis and wet gangrene of the right foot.
The “below-the-knee” amputation was performed the next day.
However, Lawton was unable to establish the injuries suffered were a result of the exposure to the frigid cold elements that night.
Why? Well, complicating matters for Lawton was the fact that medical records indicated he was diagnosed at least seven years earlier with Type 2 diabetes.
He was placed on medication, which Lawton acknowledged he chose not to take, preferring instead to treat the condition with “diet and exercise.”
Pre-employment paperwork provided by Hogan also revealed Lawton did not disclose the diagnosis to them.
Hogan claimed Lawton was never instructed to make the delivery two days early and never should have been there at that time anyway.
Therefore, any injuries sustained by Lawton during that time, whether proved to be caused by the defendant’s negligence or not, should not be covered by workers compensation.
Officials agreed with Hogan.
According to the complaint, they based their decision on the notion that the injuries Lawton sustained were not suffered “in the course of” or “arising out of” his job duties for Hogan Transport.
Further, they found Lawton’s early arrival was “not in the furtherance of the Employer’s affairs,” and thus dismissed Lawton’s claim on three occasions.
Jury Trial Likely Early Next Year
Lawton’s case is asking for acceptance of his workers compensation claim which will cover his medical expenses along with a one time payment of $139,000.
According to Tayfel, Lawton’s attorney, an Ohio jury of eight will likely hear the case early next year.
Six jurors will need to agree that Lawton’s claim should be accepted in order for him to win the case.
However, Tayfel is hoping Hogan Transport will “come to their senses” before a trial will be necessary in the case.
TNN will continue to monitor any new developments.