Pagosa man seeks $4M in lawsuit

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 4:28 PM

A Pagosa Springs man is seeking more than $4 million in damages for injuries he suffered in 2009 while working at a construction site.

A three-week trial is under way in 6th Judicial District Court in La Plata County. Eight people are serving on the jury, including two alternates.

The accident occurred Aug. 7, 2009, on property owned by Justin Grimwood, east of Bayfield near the Archuleta-La Plata county line.

Curtis Webster said he was crushed between a hayfork and the loader arm of a John Deere tractor while attempting to lock the hayfork onto the loader. Grimwood was driving the tractor and operating the hydraulic controls at the time.

Grimwood denies having any responsibility for the accident. He claims Webster was negligent and assumed the risk of injury by attempting to manually lock a self-locking device. Webster was standing about 8 feet away and moved into harm’s way while Grimwood was looking the other way, said Grimwood’s defense lawyer, Benjamin Wegener of Grand Junction.

“Mr. Webster walked in there and got himself pinched,” Wegener said during opening statements Tuesday.

Webster’s lawyer, Randal Kelly of Denver, said Grimwood was unfamiliar with how to operate the machinery, and he failed to look out for Webster’s safety.

“If you’re going to operate equipment, you need to know how it works,” Kelly said.

Webster, who was 28 at the time of the accident, suffered injuries to his head, neck, chest and left shoulder, including a spinal fracture, tear of his left vertebral artery and partial paralysis of the nerves serving the left half of his torso.

He is seeking $3 million to cover lifetime-care expenses and $1 million to cover lost wages for the remainder of his life, based on a $30,000 salary that would adjust with inflation. He is also seeking damages for pain and suffering, but Webster’s lawyer has not yet assigned an amount.

Grimwood’s defense lawyers question whether Webster suffered injuries or financial losses to the extent he claims. He reported good movement and minimal pain about two months after the accident, Wegener said. But he was in an automobile accident in October 2009, after which he began complaining of severe pain and injuries.

His medical bills went from about $50,000 before the automobile accident to more than $100,000 after the crash, Wegener said.

Webster sat in a reclined chair with a back support and a neck support pillow Tuesday in District Court.

The case is being overseen by District Judge Gregory Lyman.