MILWAUKEE (CN) – A Wisconsin appeals court upheld a $39 million jury verdict against the builder of a Milwaukee parking garage where a 15-year-old boy was crushed to death by a concrete slab in 2010.
But the July 11 opinion by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals also says that Liberty Insurance is not responsible for paying the full amount levied against Advance Cast Stone.
Following the jury’s November 2013 verdict in the case, the trial court had said Liberty “breached its duty” to defend the builder and needed to pay the full award.
The appeals panel found that conclusion unfounded. Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge William Brash said the insurer is responsible only for the limit in Advance Cast Stone’s policy, which was $10 million.
Jared Kellner was killed after a 13-ton panel fell in the county-owned O’Donnell parking garage built by Advance Cast Stone. Two other people, Amy Wosinski and her then-15-year-old son, Eric, were injured.
According the lawsuit later filed by his family, Jared Kellner was walking through the parking structure with the Wosinkis on June 24, 2010 on their way to a Summerfest event.
As they exited the structure, the 30-foot long, 13 ton decorative concrete panel fell from the structure, crushing Kellner and killing him instantly.
Amy Wosinski was struck in the back of the leg and eventually had to have the lower portion of her left leg amputated. Eric Wosinski suffered a broken right leg. Steven Wosinski, Amy’s husband and Eric’s dad, witnessed it all as it unfolded.
Milwaukee County shut down the parking structure immediately after the accident and ran a year-long investigation while also making necessary repairs, according to court documents.
After a five-week trial, jurors awarded 6.8 million in compensatory damages to Kellner’s family, $11.4 million in compensatory damages to the Wosinskis, and $6 million in compensatory damages to Milwaukee County to cover the cost of repairs.
It also awarded the parties $15 million in punitive damages.
They also found that Advance Cast Stone intentionally concealed and misrepresented a defect or deficiency in its installation of concrete panels.
The defendants appealed the verdict and the families and county filed cross-appeals.
The appeals court remanded the case to the trial court for it to take another look at the damage award in light of the ruling.
Representatives of the parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.