News & Press

$2 million logging accident settlement

John D. Webber, shareholder at Graham Lundberg Peschel, obtained a $2 million policy limit settlement for 42 year old James A. Chamness, a Snohomish County resident badly injured in a logging accident in 2010 in Skagit County.  We were proud to represent Mr. Chamness and help him on his road to recovery.  We want to briefly share his story.

FACTS OF ACCIDENT

On October 13, 2010, James Chamness was working as a timber cutter for Hornbeck Cutting, Inc., at a logging site referred to as “Deers Danger CH” in Skagit County Washington. Frank Harkness Trucking & Logging, L.L.C., acting as general contractor, had hired Hornbeck to cut timber on the Deers Danger site.  Harkness had secured a Harvesting Services Contract with the Washington Department of Natural Resources to harvest, remove and deliver timber from the Deers Danger site.

Mr. Chamness and a co-worker were cutting timber at approximately 12:45 p.m., and were about to end work for the day. The co-worker cut one last tree that fell and struck Mr. Chamness, crushing the right side of his body into the ground and causing severe and permanent injuries. Mr. Chamness was trapped underneath the felled tree for hours before being extricated by emergency medical personnel.

The Skagit County Sheriff and emergency medical personnel had to perform the difficult task of carrying Mr. Chamness 300 yards up a steep grade to an area where he could be loaded into a vehicle.  He was then transported to an area where a helicopter could land and transport him to HarborviewMedicalCenter in Seattle.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF MULTIPLE DEBILITATING INJURIES

James Chamness is an exceptional man and his life will never be the same following the terrible events that unfolded on October 13, 2010.  He graduated from ArlingtonHigh School in 1988, and immediately went to work in the logging industry, a career that he had until the time of the accident on October 13, 2010.  Mr. Chamness suffered significant, permanent injuries that included:

  • Right humerus fracture
  • Pelvic fracture
  • Open wound of buttock
  • Open wound of the right hip and thigh
  • Right leg amputation below the knee with 8 surgeries and fitting for a prosthetic
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety
  • Right brachial plexus injury,
  • Crushing injury of the dominant right arm with multiple surgeries in an attempt to save the arm.  He has lost 100% function of his right upper extremity, and may require amputation of the extremity.

LIABILITY & INSURANCE COVERAGE ISSUES 

Key to GLP’s success with this case was our ability to research and apply the complex laws regarding liability for work site accidents and also the laws regarding the application of multiple layers of liability insurance coverage for a significant loss, such as we were presented with Mr. Chamness’ case. 

Under the Washington Supreme Court Case of Stute v. PMBC, 114 Wn.2d 454, 788 P.2d 545 (1990),  the general contractor (in this case Frank Harkness Trucking & Logging) had a non-delegable duty of safety on-the-job site and has the ultimate responsibility for job safety and health at the job site. Harkness was acting in the capacity of or was analogous to a general contractor on the Deers Danger site under a Stute analysis (“Stute rule”).

GLP was able to establish that the Stute rule applied in this case by showing that Washington courts have extended the rule beyond general contractors to other parties who are sufficiently analogous to justify imposing statutory liability.

We learned that Harkness had limited liability insurance of only $1 million.  There was a secondary liability insurance policy available through Hornbeck Cutting.  We were able to obtain the additional $1 million under insurance contract law and an insurance indemnification agreement signed between Harkness and Hornbeck.  The total settlement of $2 million represented all available policy limits.

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