The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 13, 2012

Zaloudek Grain must provide answers

Deadline in lawsuit set by District Judge Hladik

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Zaloudek Grain Co. and its owners cannot rely on their lawsuit against workers’ compensation carrier CompSource Oklahoma to stall cooperating with lawyers for two teens seriously injured at work last year.

That was one of several rulings handed down Thursday afternoon by Garfield County District Judge Dennis Hladik.

Parents of Bryce Gannon and Tyler Zander, both of whom lost legs when they fell into the floor auger at the Kremlin elevator in August 2011, filed lawsuits claiming five counts of negligence and seeking punitive damages.

Although the families’ lawsuits were filed two months after the teens were injured, the cases have made virtually no progress in a year, because lawyers for Zaloudek Grain have filed repeated motions seeking the recusal of Kingfisher County District Judge Robert Davis, who originally was assigned to the case. Davis ultimately withdrew, and last month the lawsuits were assigned to Hladik.

Zaloudek Grain filed its own lawsuit against CompSource in the days following the accident, when CompSource refused to cover the accident based on the fact it had canceled Zaloudek’s insurance months earlier over the grain company’s failure to timely provide information for audit.

“The court finds that Zaloudek Grain Company’s failure to secure compensation for its employees … gave plaintiffs the right to choose whether to proceed in District Court or Workers’ Compensation court,” Hladik wrote in his ruling. “As a matter of law, the defendants are not entitled to rely on the affirmative defense that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.”

Hladik gave William and Robert Zaloudek 15 days to answer discovery requests from the families’ lawyers, and 45 days to appear for depositions.

Hladik found Mike Parrish, the manager of the grain facility, and Ethan Parrish, a witness to the events on that day, in contempt of court for not showing up to give depositions to the families’ lawyers. Hladik ordered both the Parrishes to either appear and cooperate by Feb. 8, or appear in court to be fined and held in jail.

Hladik set an April 1 deadline for all discovery to be completed in the lawsuit, and scheduled pretrial conference for April 25.

Plaintiff’s lawyer Brad Gungoll, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families, was pleased with Hladik’s decisions.

“I thought the judge made some great rulings,” Gungoll said. “I anticipate we’re going to move forward.”

According to court documents, the Zander family has incurred expenses in excess of $1.6 million, and the Gannons in excess of $900,000 so far; and expect to incur expenses in excess of $5 million for the fit and maintenance of prosthetic limbs during Tyler’s lifetime, and in excess of $18 million for the fit and maintenance of prosthetic limbs during Bryce’s lifetime.