(CN) – A MillerCoors truck driver who had the skin peeled off his leg when a big rig backed over him can keep his lawsuit in New Jersey where he lives, a federal magistrate ruled.
John Novartis had been in Fort Worth, Texas, where MillerCoors owns a brewery, on the day of the accident, Jan. 27, 2015.
After backing up his tandem tractor-trailer to the loading dock at Bay 16, Novartis stepped outside the vehicle and walked toward the back of the trailer.
At that very moment, however, another tandem-tractor trailer was reversing into the adjoining Bay 15.
Novartis says the driver of this trailer wasn’t looking, backed into Novartis, and dragged his body across the ground after catching his right leg with the right rear tires of his trailer.
The accident left Novartis with a fractured pelvis and fibula, and a “nearly circumferential degloving injury” to his right lower extremity, the complaint states.
Novartis says surgeries kept him in Texas for four months and that he had to be airlifted home to New Jersey, where he is still undergoing reconstructive surgeries.
Novartis and his wife sued Milwaukee,Wis.-based MillerCoors in Newark, but the brewer said the federal case belonged in the Northern District of Texas.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk disagreed on Oct. 20, saying the driver’s “physical condition overrides other convenience arguments.”
“It would be unfair and unjust to force Mr. Novartis, with his limited mobility and constant need of medical assistance to litigate this case in Texas,” the unpublished ruling states.
New Jersey is not a “foreign” forum to MillerCoors that would prejudice the firm, which is registered to do business there, Falk added.
“Mr. Novartis requires assistance in almost all activities of daily living such as driving, showering, and dressing,” the opinion states. “He has been hospitalized numerous times for surgeries. He has also undergone multiple treatments for various infections. Simply put, plaintiff’s medical condition outweighs all other transfer factors, many of which would otherwise point to Texas as the preferable forum.”
In support of its motion, MillerCoors had noted that the case might require it to call three Texas-based witnesses: the two Texas police officers who investigated the accident and the safety worker who arrived at the accident scene.
Falk noted, however, that MillerCoors offered no specifics “about the importance of their testimony or why it cannot be presented by other than live testimony as they are required to do.”
MillerCoors also failed to show that the public interest warrants transfer, the ruling states.
“It claims that it is necessary for jurors to personally observe the location where the accident took place,” Falk wrote. “However, this is not really practical or necessary. Jury views of accident sites are extremely unusual. As in almost all accident cases, photographs and videos will likely be sufficient to fully inform the jury about the site of the accident.”
Jillian Roman, an attorney for Novartis and his wife, declined to comment on the ruling.
MillerCoors has yet to return a request for comment.
SABMiller, MillerCoors’ parent, netted revenue of nearly $26.3 billion in 2014-15.
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