The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 1, 2013

Judge: 3 shareholders can’t be held responsible in Zaloudek suit

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Three minor shareholders of Zaloudek Grain Co. have been cut loose from a negligence lawsuit arising from an accident that injured two teen employees in August 2011.

The families of Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon, both of whom lost legs when they fell into the floor auger of the Kremlin grain elevator, filed lawsuits against the company and several individual shareholders the same month as the accident. They claim five counts of negligence and seek punitive damages.

At a Monday afternoon hearing in Garfield County District Court, District Judge Dennis Hladik ruled on four individual defendants’ motions, dismissing three from the case, but not the fourth.

Hladik dismissed Mary Ann Iven, who owned a 5 percent share of company stock; Joan Markwell, who owned a 10 percent share of stock; and Peggy Harris, who owned a 15 percent share of stock.

“(She) has never served as an officer, director or in any other management capacity at Defendant Zaloudek Grain Co.,” Hladik said of each in turn. “She has had no involvement in the procurement or maintenance of workers’ compensation insurance, in the design or building of the facility, in the hiring or training of employees, or in any other management decisions of the company. She did not alter or inquire into the company’s business practices.”

Tom Zaloudek, who owned a 10 percent share of company stock, was not dismissed from the lawsuit.

“Tom Zaloudek was at the business daily checking the markets,” Hladik said. “This is circumstantial evidence that Tom Zaloudek may have been involved in corporate management, and it must be taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. In this instance, summary judgment is prohibited, and Tom Zaloudek’s motion for summary judgment is denied.”

Hladik also took up a motion filed Thursday by Joseph Farris, representing Zaloudek Grain, asking for more time for discovery. The discovery deadline earlier imposed by Hladik was Sunday.

Hladik displayed irritation at the motion being filed.

“My problem is, we started this three and a half months ago,” Hladik said. “Why are we waiting until the last day to address this?”

Farris and Brad Gungoll, the families’ attorneys, each told Hladik where they side stood in the discovery process. Hladik directed them to return to his courtroom April 8.

“I’m going to give you a week to get this ironed out,” Hladik said. “We’ve got a pretrial April 25, and I expect you to be ready.”

Hladik gave the lawyers until Wednesday to file a list of witnesses.

Zaloudek Grain is waging its own lawsuit against workers’ compensation provider CompSource Oklahoma, which refused to cover the teens’ injuries because it had canceled Zaloudek Grain’s policy months earlier for failing to provide information needed for audit.