Garage door company on hook for $21M jury award

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A Plainfield garage door company has been ordered to pay $21.3 million in damages to an Indianapolis man who suffered permanent, disabling spinal injuries in 2006 due to a malfunctioning garage door.

A Marion County jury awarded the damages last week to Ralph Parker and his wife Cheryl Proper in their case against Professional Garage Door Systems Inc.

Parker was working as an electrician on April 6, 2006, when he was hired by a third party to inspect and upgrade wiring at a building at 6990 W. Washington St. in Indianapolis.

He was working on an extension ladder above a garage door at the premises when the door activated and trapped Parker against the garage. Eventually, the electric garage door motor failed and the door dropped down, releasing Parker, who fell headfirst to the ground 14 feet below.

Parker’s injuries left him completely paralyzed from the chest down.

According to the lawsuit, garage doors at the premises had been sold, installed, inspected and serviced by Professional Garage Door Systems a week prior to incident.

The lawsuit alleged the injuries were the direct result of the company’s "negligent inspection, service and/or repair of the garage door opener."

The jury found total damages suffered by Parker of $26 million, but cut the award by 30 percent, to $18.2 million, after finding Professional Garage Door Systems only 70 percent at fault in the incident.

In addition, Proper was awarded 70 percent of a $4.5 million award, or $3.1 million, for “loss of consortium.”

Attorneys for Meils, Thompson, Dietz & Beris, the Indianapolis firm that represented the defendant, were out of the office Wednesday.

Lee Christie of Indianapolis-based Cline Farrell Christie & Lee, who represented the plaintiff, was not available Wednesday.

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