The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 8, 2013

Judge: Facility expert can't testify for Zaloudek defense

ENID, Okla. — The defendants in a negligence lawsuit arising from an accident at a Kremlin grain elevator will have one less expert witness than they would like to have put on the stand.

On Monday afternoon, District Judge Dennis Hladik ruled in Garfield County District Court lawyers for Zaloudek Grain Co. and its shareholders cannot call George Wandling, an expert on the design of the grain facility, to testify.

The families of Tyler Zander and Bryce Gannon, both 17 when they fell into the floor auger and lost legs, 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.

Joseph Farris, lawyer for Zaloudek Grain, had earlier filed a motion asking for more time for the discovery phase of the lawsuit so that one additional expert witness could be added to the list.

A week ago, Hladik gave the lawyers some time to discuss the matter between them and see if they could iron it out themselves. He ordered them to return in a week to revisit the issue.

“The problem I have is, this has been pending since 2011, and the day before the discovery deadline, this is filed,” Hladik said.

Hladik asked lawyers for the Zaloudek side how their case might be damaged without Wandling’s testimony, then asked Brad Gungoll, the lead lawyer for the families, how the families’ side might be damaged by the late addition of an extra witness. After listening to both sides, Hladik handed down his decision.

“We are not going to expand the discovery deadline for (Wandling),” Hladik ruled. “He is not going to be allowed to testify.”

A pretrial conference is scheduled for April 25, and trial is scheduled in June.

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.

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