Network Firm News

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Atlanta, GA -- July 26, 2007 -- Terrance C. Sullivan and Shawn D. Scott defended the manufacturer of storage tank vents in a wrongful death product liability action brought by the surviving wife and children of a gasoline-tanker truck driver killed while off-loading gasoline at a 100,000 gallon fuel storage tank farm. The suit was filed in Jackson County, Missouri at Independence and involved a three-week trial.

The accident victim suffered third-degree burns over 94 percent of his body when gasoline and gasoline vapors ignited during the off-loading procedure. Plaintiffs contended that gasoline escaped from a 12,000 gallon storage tank into which Mr. Sapp was unloading because the pressure-vacuum vents manufactured by Weinberg Wheeler's client failed to operate properly, causing the storage tank to over-pressurize and eventually rupture.

Plaintiffs asserted claims in strict liability (defective design and failure to warn) and negligence. At trial, Plaintiffs also asserted a claim of negligence against the welder of the tank.

The victim lived for 12 days after the explosion, and was able to communicate with his family and his doctors for at least the first week. According to several trial witnesses, even though his doctors advised him that he had less than a five percent chance of survival, Mr. Sapp was adamant that he wanted to do anything possible to extend his life.

Weinberg, Wheeler was brought into the case less than three months before trial, after an attempt at mediation failed. At trial, the firm's client offered to settle the case for $2.5 million.

After trial and approximately five hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Weinberg, Wheeler's client signed by 11 of the 12 jurors (in Missouri, a three-quarters majority is required for a verdict). Subsequent interviews with jurors indicate that the jury determined that the client was not liable within the first 20 minutes of deliberations.

This is the second significant defense verdict obtained by Mr. Sullivan in the Kansas City area. Last year, Mr. Sullivan and two of his partners, Y. Kevin Williams and Alan M. Maxwell successfully defended the owner of a Kansas City shopping mall in a premises liability case after one of the mall’s patrons was severely and permanently impaired after being shot in the head. The verdict in that case was recently featured in DRI’s For the Defense magazine and was also named to Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s list of “Top Defense Verdicts of 2006.”

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