A California jury awarded a truck driver nearly $8 million earlier this month after finding a forklift driver at fault in an accident that resulted in the amputation of the produce hauler’s right leg below the knee.
Bhupinder Singh was originally awarded $10.5 million by the jury in Yolo County Superior Court, but the judge lowered that amount the same day to nearly $8 million after the jury found Singh to be 25% at fault in the incident that occurred at Capay Organic in Capay, California, in July 2017.
“Unfortunately, his days as a truck driver are over,” Ricardo Echeverria, attorney for Singh, told FreightWaves. “He has a job as a truck dispatcher at a local trucking company in Fresno, California, but he has not been able to drive a truck since the incident.”
On July 21, 2017, Singh, who hauled refrigerated freight, was picking up a load of tomatoes at Capay Organic, when he went inside the warehouse to instruct the forklift driver about “how he wanted the pallets to be loaded to make sure the weight was even across the axles,” Echeverria said.
As the 11th pallet was being loaded, the forklift driver missed getting his forks underneath the pallet of tomatoes, which weighed around 1,200 pounds.
“We have about 40 seconds of video that shows this, but it just so happens that the forklift driver missed getting underneath the pallet, he bumped it, and so he needed to reconfigure and so he zipped back and that’s when he ran over Singh,” Echeverria said.
At that time, Singh was walking toward his truck to ensure his pallets were being stacked correctly.
“His [Singh’s] foot was crushed, nonsalvageable, and that night they performed an open amputation, meaning they just got rid of all of the dead tissue, and then after giving it a little time to heal, they did the full amputation below the knee,” he said.
Court documents allege the forklift driver was negligent because he wasn’t looking back, and Capay claims Singh was negligent because he should have been paying attention to the forklift operator before crossing the warehouse toward his truck.
While some produce warehouses have areas that are taped off for truck drivers to stand, the Capay warehouse did not have such an area, Echeverria told FreightWaves.
“Ironically, the forklift driver admitted that he was asked on more than one occasion to paint those stripes where pedestrians can stand,” he said. “We received the company manual that said to paint bright yellow lines that segregate forklift areas from pedestrians. So the company recognized they had a rule to do that and the forklift driver was told to do it, twice, and he never got around to doing it.”
Capay Inc. did not respond to FreightWaves’ telephone call requesting comment.
At the time of the accident, Echeverria said Singh had been a truck driver for only five months after receiving his commercial driver’s license in February 2017.
“Singh wanted the American dream and he immigrated to the U.S. from India in 2016 for a better life and then this happens,” Echeverria said. “Despite the large award, Singh plans to continue to work as a truck dispatcher. He’s a hard worker.”
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