Kevin P. Durkin and Sean P. Driscoll, attorneys at Clifford Law Offices, obtained a record $16 million verdict on behalf of two families whose sons were killed in a grain bin entrapment incident in northwestern Illinois.
Following a two-and-a-half-week trial, the Carroll County jury deliberated just eight hours before granting $8 million to each of the two plaintiffs' families who were working at Haasbach at a Consolidated Grain and Barge Company grain elevator. The previous record in Carroll County was a $220,000 verdict in 1989 and a $1.1 million settlement in 2005, according to John Kirkton of the Jury Verdict Reporter.
The incident involved the July, 2010 deaths of Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alejandro Pacas, 19, who were standing on the grain in the bin, pushing the grain down to go to a conveyor. According to a third worker, Will Piper, he and Pacas jumped in to save Whitebread who was crying for help as he was being buried like quicksand. Pacas jumped into what became a sinkhole trying to pull out Whitebread and they both suffocated. Piper was partially engulfed to his neck for approximately six hours before rescuers were able to save him. The jury awarded him $875,000. He was represented by Loren Golden of Golden Law Office in Elgin.
"These boys should not have been working in the bin in the first place," Durkin said following the record verdict. "Consolidated Grain and Barge had ultimate responsibility for what went on in that bin and the company failed these families."
Just last year partner Durkin, senior partner Robert Clifford and partner Colin Dunn obtained a record $112 million verdict in federal court in St. Louis on behalf of two men who were burned in a grain bin explosion owned by Con Agra Foods.
This most recent trial was presided over by Judge Val Gunnarsson of the 15th Judicial Circuit before the nine-men-three-women jury.