Family of accident victim is awarded $1.8 million

December 11, 1990|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A federal jury has awarded $1.8 million in compensatory damages to the family of a Perry Hall man who died as the result of injuries he suffered in a construction accident at Fort Meade in early 1987.

The jury made the award to Frances Clark, the victim's wife, and her two daughters last week in a product-liability case that stemmed from the accident at the site of a National Security Agency building.

James Booker Clark, the victim, suffered irreversible brain damage and other major injuries when a metal bushing fractured on the high-pressure hydraulic hose he was straddling as he tried to change it to correct a blockage.

The bushing fracture caused an almost explosive release of hydraulic fluid which struck the victim in the stomach under 11,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and blew him across the room in a work shack that covered the construction site.

Clark was taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore in cardiac arrest. Surgeons revived him with manual heart massage and removed at least 16 feet of his intestines. Court papers say he lived on nourishment from a stomach tube for another 21 months in a series of trauma care facilities before he died at Good Samaritan Hospital here Dec. 29, 1988.

"If ever a family deserved a verdict in its favor, they did. He [James Clark] suffered miserably, and it was wholly out of his hands," said Bruce J. Babij, one of the Clarks' lawyers, of the verdict.

The defendant, Richard Dudgeon Inc. of Stamford, Conn., claimed during the 10-day trial that Clark had broken the bushing and should never have attempted to change the blocked hose without assistance from the company.

Dudgeon officials said during the trial that they had no idea who manufactured the bushing or what its burst pressure rating was.

The jury awarded damages under strict liability laws, finding that the bushing was defective and "unreasonably dangerous."

Mrs. Clark's lawyers argued to the jury that the victim's medical bills amounted to more than $500,000. The award also included damages for lost wages and pain and suffering by the victim's family.

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