Part 2: Case of Barge Accident Reveals Strategy to Prevent Plaintiff’s from Winning Case

Resuming where we last left off in this important case…

The court then turned to the deposition of Rigoberto Garcia, an employee of Maxum. Garcia had testified that while he was at work the day before the accident, all safety barricades were set up. He said that Maxum employees never removed the safety barricades when they worked around or passed through the holes. Instead, they would climb over or through the cables. Garcia finally stated that he left work every day at 5 p.m. The depositions of two other Maxum employees supported Garcia’s testimony. The combined testimony of these Maxum employees tended to show that the removal of the cables occurred when Maxum workers were not on site.

Finally, the court examined the testimony of Glenn Russo, an employee of Corrosion. Russo testified that his foreman, also an employee of Corrosion, had confirmed he’d been the one to place the plastic sheeting over the manhole. This admission effectively eliminated Maxum as the culprit behind the plastic sheeting that obscured the hole from Cotone’s view.

Based on the above pieces of evidence and testimony, the court concluded that the removal of the safety cables occurred sometime in the evening. Because Maxum employees were typically away from the barge hole during the day, and home from work at night, it was not probable that a Maxum employee had removed the cables. This was buttressed by the Maxum employees’ consistent testimony that neither of them removed the cables, nor ever witnessed them removed at any time. Furthermore, the admission of the Corrosion employee that the company’s foreman had placed the plastic over the hole removed from the realm of possiblity the idea that a Maxum employee was to blame for that particular action.

Because the depositions and invoice showed that there was no genuine issue of material fact in regards to Maxum’s alleged involvement in the removal of the safety cables and placing of the plastic, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the company from the case. Accordingly, Corrosion was left to defend the suit by itself.

The Cotone case is instructive because it showcases the “divide and conquer” strategy a plaintiff can implement when he sues multiple defendants. For instance, once Corrosion and Maxum were named in the suit, Maxum ran for the exit door, as opposed to uniting its legal energies with Corrosion against the plaintiff, Cotone.

Whether or not a defendant will choose to become advesaries with another codefendant is often a matter of risk analysis. If the defendant in question is confident it can escape from the suit without much financial harm or exposure, it will likely do just that. On the other hand, if the facts squarely suggest some sort of negligent behavior on behalf of the defendant, it will often join forces with the other codefendant to create a united front against the plaintiff–or at the very least try to keep the more “innocent” codefendant from exiting the suit. After all, misery loves company.

A skilled attorney can a help a client determine which defendants should be sued when there are a multitude of negligent individuals available to choose from. By strategically selecting defendants who are solvent and who have a high likelihood of opposing one another, lawyers can maximize the recovery for their client.

The Berniard Law Firm has a strong history of handling complex litigation involving multiple defendants. If you have been injured and believe multiple companies or individuals are to blame, contact the attorneys at the Berniard Law Firm today. They can effectively assess your situation and suggest the litigation strategy best for you.