Michael Murdoch was employed as a millwright for Siemens Industry on a construction project at SFO. He was working on a baggage conveyor belt cutting a metal side guard. The conveyor began moving unexpectedly, pulling Murdoch into an opening, where he remained stuck until he was able to pull himself out.
In May 2012, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against respondent Brock Solutions for negligence and loss of consortium. The complaint alleged that Brock was the subcontractor responsible for “the design, installation, and programming of the computerized system” that controlled the baggage conveyor system Murdoch was working on when he was injured.
The case was tried in 2014. The jury determined Brock and Siemens were negligent, and their negligence was a substantial factor in plaintiffs’ injuries. The jury awarded plaintiffs $3,895,220, comprised of $2,395,220 in economic damages and $1,500,000 in non-economic damages. The jury allocated 80 percent of the fault to Murdoch, 10 percent to Brock, and 10 percent to Siemens. The court reduced the economic damages by Murdoch’s percentage of fault, and offset settlement payments and workers’ comtpensation benefits Murdoch received before trial.
Plaintiffs moved for a new trial, arguing the jury’s apportionment of fault was against the weight of the evidence. The trial court agreed and granted the motion, concluding Brock’s liability “was significant and in excess of the 10% that the jury apportioned.” Brock appealed and plaintiffs filed a cross-appeal. In Murdoch I, this court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion for a new trial.
Following a second trial, the jury found that Brock was negligent, but that the negligence was not a substantial factor in causing Murdoch’s injury. In July 2018, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Brock. Murdoch appealed, but the judgment was affirmed in the unpublished case of Murdoch v Brock Solutions.
During the second trial, Murdoch testified that he agreed “the most important rule for anybody working on top of energized equipment is lockout, tagout.” He admitted he had failed to lockout the conveyor belt on the day of the accident at SFO because he thought a Bass Electric employee had done so.
The trial court did not err in permitting a retrial on damages. In their motion for a new trial following the 2014 verdict, plaintiffs requested a new trial rather than a trial only on liability. The August 2014 court order granting the motion did not limit the new trial to the liability issue. Neither did the March 2017 decision of this court affirming the trial court limit the issues on retrial. On April 4, 2018, the eve of the April 9 scheduled trial, plaintiffs unsuccessfully moved in limine to limit the retrial to liability only.
Plaintiffs argue the trial court abused its discretion in allowing evidence regarding Murdoch’s workers compensation benefits, which, they argue, “was offered to argue that Mr. Murdoch’s injuries were not serious based upon his failure to obtain medical care from collateral sources.”
However, plaintiffs cite to no portion of the hearing on the motions in limine where they argued that, if the trial court allowed retrial on damages, the court should exclude evidence regarding Murdoch’s workers compensation benefits due to the collateral source rule.