A New Jersey truck driver who suffered permanent brain injuries when he slipped on an ice-covered, poorly-lighted parking lot where his trailer was parked in February 2002 has settled a negligence lawsuit against Ryder Truck Rental and a snow-removal firm for $7 million, the Camden (N.J.) Courier Post reported Thursday, March 29.
The settlement, approved this week by Superior Court Judge Ronald Freeman, comes after more than two years of preparation by attorneys, who lined up 14 plaintiff and defense expert witnesses who would have testified if the case had gone to trial, plaintiff’s attorney Stephen DeNittis told the Courier Post.
Benjamin Ingling, of Palmyra, now 57, was employed by McLean Trucking, a package delivery firm that rented tractors parked on Ryder’s lot in Pennsauken, DeNittis told the Courier Post. On the morning of Feb. 5, 2004, Ingling clocked in at the McLean office and then drove to the lot, where he climbed into his truck and turned on the lights, only to find the vehicle blocked into the spot.
Ingling got out of the tractor to walk around it to see if he could maneuver the vehicle out of the spot, but slipped on ice that had not been cleared from a series of storms that ended several days earlier, DeNittis told the Courier Post. A co-worker found Ingling about 20 minutes later lying on his stomach 10 or 12 feet from the tractor; while the co-worker called 911, Ingling attempted to get up, but fell again and hit his head a second time, according to reports included with the lawsuit.
DeNittis told the Courier Post that Ingling was hospitalized at Cooper University Hospital for five or six months for closed head brain injuries and then transferred to a rehabilitation facility for about a year. Ingling now lives at home but is dependent on two nurses for round-the-clock care, DeNittis told the Courier Post; he uses a wheelchair, relies on a feeding tube and needs a tracheotomy tube when he sleeps.
DeNittis told the Courier Post that if the case had gone to trial, testimony would have shown the section of the lot where the rental trucks were stored was “an icy mess for the last 10 or 15 winters. There was no snow removal in that area, and the trucks blocked what outdoor lighting was in place on the other side of the lot.” A co-defendant in the lawsuit, All-Green Turf Management Inc. had a contract for snow removal but had never cleared the area where Ingling fell, DeNittis told the Courier Post.