The United States government has been ordered to pay nearly $900,000 to a disabled truck driver who suffered brain and spinal injuries after a fall at an Indiana post office.
Indiana Southern District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt entered judgment totaling $899,833.19 in damages for Raymond Lilly, who fell off a loading dock while delivering packages to the Lawrenceburg Post Office.
Lilly was working for Joe Poff Inc. delivering packages for Amazon at the time of the December 2013 fall. He’d once owned a trucking company, but after he lost his commercial driver’s license because of his diabetes in 2000, his business went under in 2002.
Lilly did not work during the period between 2000 and 2013.
“He worried all the time and did not take care of his health. He received social security disability during that time and his disability benefits converted to retirement benefits in 2013 when he turned 65,” Pratt wrote in a Tuesday order listing her findings of fact and conclusions of law, which were entered after a bench trial on damages. “In 2009, Mr. Lilly decided that he was going to get his life back in order and he started exercising, eating right, taking his medications and lost approximately 80 pounds. In March or April 2013, he passed a (Department of Transportation) physical to become a truck driver once again.”
Lilly had been back to work only six weeks on Christmas Eve 2013, when he was working with a United States Postal Service employee to unload packages. When the work was finished, the employee unhooked a portion of the loading dock without looking to see if Lilly had cleared it.
Lilly fell backward four to five feet, Pratt wrote, and he was initially unable to get up on his own. He declined the USPS employee’s offer of medical care, but he later sought treatment Dec. 26 and was eventually admitted to the hospital for four days.
“The fall from the loading dock on December 24, 2013, resulted in Mr. Lilly sustaining two spinal fractures … a mild traumatic brain injury, and post-concussive syndrome. … In addition to the spinal fractures, the concussion, and the post-concussive syndrome, the fall from the loading dock on December 24, 2013, also caused an exacerbation of Mr. Lilly’s pre-existing diabetes, neuropathy, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia; short-term memory loss; hypogonadism; psychological trauma, including depression and anxiety; renal failure; weight gain; and chronic pain.”
The USPS employee reported the incident to his supervisor, but it was never reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Additionally, Pratt said there was no evidence the malfunctioning piece of the loading dock known as the dock plate was “red tagged” or inspected after the incident, and the USPS maintenance manager conceded the maintenance department did not do routine preventative maintenance on dock plates.
Lilly has not worked since the Christmas Eve fall, and Dr. Alson Lee Greiner concluded in August 2014 that Lilly was totally disabled from work. Dr. Ryan Gleason, the government’s expert at the damages trial, did not dispute Lilly’s inability to work or daily pain but opined that Lilly’s injuries were not permanent and did not render him totally disabled.
Dr. Harold T. Pretorius, Lilly’s primary care physician, agreed that Lilly is permanently disabled, though he acknowledged the accident was not the only cause of his disability. Pretorius also initially said Lilly — 71 years old at the time of the trial — had a life expectancy of 70 to 72 years, though he later revised that expectancy to 78 to 82 years.
Pratt credited the opinions of Greiner and Pretorious, noting Gleason “did not review any of Mr. Lilly’s prior treatment records, the actual scans about which he testified, or the current treatment records.”
But she also determined the damages were appropriately assessed against a 72-year life span, pointing to evidence that Lilly would only have been able to work for “a couple of years” after he returned to work in 2013 because of complications of his diabetes. Conversely, there was no evidence Lilly would have continued working until he turned 72.
“The evidence shows — and the parties stipulate that — the United States’ negligence proximately caused Mr. Lilly’s two spinal fractures, mild traumatic brain injury, and post-concussive syndrome,” the judge wrote. “The evidence shows that Mr. Lilly’s hypertension, cerebral ischemia and diabetes were poorly controlled for some years before the fall, and aging can exacerbate … chronic diseases. However, the evidence also shows that ‘Mr. Lilly had turned over a new leaf … he had gotten on his diet, had gotten off of insulin … he had lost 85 pounds … and was making a sincere effort’ to improve his health.
“The Court finds that some exacerbation of Mr. Lilly’s diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, and anxiety, and the development of hypogonadism were the result of the injury.”
The $899,833 damages award included:
- $59,483 in stipulated past medical bills
- $14,420 in future medical bills
- $306,600 in lost wages
- $519,330 for pain and suffering through the age of 72
The case is Raymond Lilly v. United States of America, 4:17-cv-00010.