The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

February 28, 2013

Judge strikes down Zaloudek Grain’s defense

ENID, Okla. — District Judge Dennis Hladik wasted no time Thursday afternoon striking down Zaloudek Grain Co.’s defense that others might be responsible for horrific injury to 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. The families claim five counts of negligence and seek punitive damages.

Lawyers for the families last month filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the judge to block the grain company’s defenses that the teens’ injuries were caused by their own negligence, that they assumed the risk of their injuries and that their injuries were caused by the negligence of others.

In a four-minute court hearing, Hladik sustained the motion.

“The plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment is sustained,” Hladik told the lawyers gathered in the courtroom. “The defendant may not plead or prove as a defense that the injury was caused by the negligence of a fellow servant, or that the employee assumed the risk of his employment, or that the injury was due to the contributory negligence of the employee. As a matter of law, defendants are not entitled to rely on such affirmative defenses.”

Joseph Farris, attorney for the grain company, asked if the ruling applies to the individual defendants as well as the company.

“At this point, it applies to everybody,” Hladik said.

Hladik also told the parties he will require mediation in the case and he wants to get it scheduled for May. He directed them to consult their calendars and let him know of any dates they cannot be present for mediation.

Zaloudek Grain also 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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