MIAMI—A Miami-Dade County District Court jury awarded the family of an independent contractor $3.75 million in connection with his death in a multipiece wheel rim accident. Ricardo A. Moller, 36, was working at the now-defunct Opportunity Trucking in Hialeah, Fla, in February 1995.
He was branding the ``Opportunity'' name onto the sidewall of a truck tire when the rim exploded in his face, crushing his skull. He died nine days later, on March 1.
Mr. Moller's widow, Maria, and his children, Marcela and Manfred, sued Opportunity and Evans Tires & Treads, a tire dealership located in Ocoee near Orlando.
The family's counsel argued that Evans was careless and negligent in assembling the rim, said Dean Colson, one of the plaintiff's attorneys.
Evans' attorneys claimed the company had not assembled the rim, and even if it had, the rim design was so dangerous and defective that the assembler could not be held responsible.
Nevertheless, the jury found Sept. 3 for the plaintiffs after a one-week trial, and awarded them $1 million each for pain and suffering.
Opportunity was found ``vicariously responsible for the negligence of Evans,'' Mr. Colson said.
The two companies together are required to pay the full amount of the award, he said.
Percentages of payment have yet to be determined because no post-trial motions have been filed, but Mr. Colson said he expected the decision to be appealed by Evans and Opportunity.
Attorneys for the defendants did not return phone calls seeking comment.