After six hours of deliberation, a jury awarded $17.72 million to the family of a construction worker who drowned while working on a pedestrian bridge to Baylor University’s McLane Stadium in 2014.
Jose Dario Suarez drowned when the hydraulic lift he was operating rolled from a barge into the Brazos River.
The jury ultimately placed 100 percent of the blame on Austin Bridge and Road, the general contractor for the bridge project, though the suit also named a number of other companies as defendants. Baylor University was dismissed from the suit in June.
The decision came after a three-week trial, during which the defendants tried to pin blame on one another.
“Lots of times people wonder why there are so many companies named as defendants in these type of cases,” Vujasinovic, the attorney who represented the family in the case, told the Waco Tribune. “As it turned out, everybody was pointing the finger at each other and sometimes it takes a trial like this to expose the bad actor.”
According to a case summary on posted on the attorney’s website, other defendants in the case argued that Austin Bridge and Road was responsible for the death because the company failed to follow safety rules in the name of expediency. The safety rules called for lifts to be chained to the barges, but evidence showed that they had been driven freely around the barges on a daily basis.
“I hope this verdict will send a message to all companies, not only construction companies, to properly train their workers and supervisors and not prioritize speed and profits over safety of workers and people,” Vujasinovic said.
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