Jury awards $15.2 million to veteran injured in McCormick Place accident

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CHICAGO (STMW) - A military veteran will receive $15.2 million in damages for injuries suffered when his foot was crushed by a forklift at a 2012 event at McCormick Place.

On Sept. 18, 2010, Thomas Neuhengen, 33, of Cudahy, Wis., was taking down a booth for Hermle Machine Company at the International Manufacturing Techonolgy Show at the McCormick Place when a 58,000-pound 40/60 Versa Lift forklift struck him and ran over his left foot, according a statement from the Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm.

As a result of the accident, Neuhegen, a staff sergeant in the Wisconsin Army National Guard who served two tours in Iraq, suffered an injury to his foot, which required a number of surgeries, according to the statement.

Cook County Judge Lorna Propes approved the settlement Thursday.

Global Experience Specialists is “disappointed by the jury’s decision,” spokeswoman Detra Page said.

“We diligently adhere to federal and state safety requirements and are committed to protecting our employees and GES’ solid safety reputation,” she said.

Neuhengen’s lawyers argued the forklift driver, Frederick Neirinckx, failed to keep a clear view of the path of travel, failed to maintain a proper lookout, and failed to use a spotter, according to the statement.

The lawyers also argued that Global Experience Specialists, the Nevada company that set up the show and hired the lift driver, did not have a policy in place to make sure forklift drivers were trained and evaluated before the start of an event.

Global Experience Specialists was cited with four safety violations by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the incident.

“As a result of a corporation ignoring safety rules, Tom’s life will never be the same,” attorney Patrick Salvi II said in a statement. “We hope this verdict serves as a reminder to companies to ensure employees receive proper training and resources.”