Randy Roginksi was marking pavement along the right shoulder for Solar Testing Labs on the night of July 27, 2010 when he was struck and killed by a Honda Accord driven by Anthony J. Jones. Jones was driving in the right lane, but the work zone, which was managed by paving company The Shelly Co., squeezed traffic onto the berm where Roginksi was working, according to Ohio State troopers.
A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Jury on April 3 found The Shelly Co. responsible for Roginski’s death and awarded his family $39 million in compensation and punitive damages.
Roginksi was wearing a reflective vest and was standing on the shoulder of the highway when he was killed. His family sued paving company The Shelly Co., and the family’s attorney, Christian Patno, called working conditions at the job site on I-271 in Richfield Township, Ohio, “ridiculously dangerous.”
The conditions were so chaotic – with trucks pulling in and out of a designated work area that forced vehicles to drive close to workers – that following the crash, the Ohio State Highway Patrol did not cite the driver who hit Roginski and a grand jury refused to indict him.
According to testimony during the trial, as many as 100 large trucks were pulling in and out of the area, delivering asphalt to the project. The speed limit for that stretch of highway was reduced to 25 mph from 65 mph.
Patno said The Shelly Co. was supposed to have arranged for two highway patrol officers to be on site, with one cruiser stationed at the start of the construction zone and another further down to remind drivers to be aware of the trucks and highway construction workers in the work zone. According to Patno, only one car was present and it was located about halfway into the work zone.
“It was hard for drivers to drop down from 65 mph to 25 mph” as they encountered the asphalt trucks, Patno said. “This situation caused a sudden danger.”
After the verdict, defense attorney Anthony Catanzarite read a prepared statement that said in part that while the company “is saddened by the loss suffered by the Roginksi family … it strongly denies it was responsible for the accident.”
He added that The Shelly Co. “firmly believes the verdict was contrary to both the facts presented at the trial and the applicable law, and it intends to vigorously pursue all relief available to overturn this unjust verdict.”
Roginski’s wife and three children were awarded $19 million in compensation for his wrongful death, and $20 million in punitive damages. The jury also called for The Shelly Co. to pay the family’s attorney fees.
Prior to the verdict, attorneys for the company argued that there was no evidence that Roginski suffered pain before he died and asked that Judge Michael Jackson rule in the company’s favor, which the judge refused to do. The attorneys for The Shelly Co. also claim that the company should only have to pay $50 in punitive damages and $12.1 million of the compensatory damages.
According to Patno, the punitive award was justified because the Shelly Co. “didn’t take the safety measures needed to protect” Roginski or their own employees.