$5M awarded in toilet prank that went awry

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A man who was rendered quadriplegic when two of his relatives tipped over the portable toilet he was using in their attempt to play a practical joke on him has settled with the toilet's manufacturer and installer, as well as the two relatives.

The settlement, hashed out in the Sullivan County Court of Common Pleas, totaled $5 million.

In Adams v. Poly-San, according to the plaintiffs' pretrial memorandum, plaintiff Donald H. Adams III went on a camping, hunting and fishing trip with his cousins-in-law, defendants Gerald Grater and Barry Weller, to a lodge that did not have indoor plumbing.

While there, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum, Mr. Adams went to use the portable toilet. Mr. Grater and Mr. Weller decided to play a practical joke by backing their truck up to the portable toilet unit's door in order to lock him inside.

Mr. Grater and Mr. Weller then proceeded to bang on and shake the portable toilet, inadvertently causing it to tip over, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum.

Mr. Adams fell and landed on his neck, rendering him quadriplegic. He suffered laminar fractures to his fourth and fifth cervical spine vertebrae and a burst fracture to his fifth cervical spine vertebra.

He is now completely paralyzed from the shoulders down. Dr. Guy Fried opined that Mr. Adams' injuries are permanent, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum.

Rehabilitation expert Mona Yudkoff projected the cost of Mr. Adams' lifetime medical needs at more than $6 million, and possibly as much as $10 million.

Mr. Adams and his wife filed suit against Mr. Grater and Mr. Weller, along with the portable toilet's manufacturer, Poly-San, and the unit's installer, Lewis Crawford, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum.

Mr. Adams alleged that Poly-San was negligent for failing to provide ground spikes with the unit, despite the fact that the base includes holes for such spikes.

A representative for Poly-San admitted in a deposition that, by failing to provide stakes, the company did not supply users with every piece of equipment necessary to stabilize the portable toilet unit.

Mr. Adams also alleged that Poly-San was negligent for building the portable toilet unit with "an excessively light base, made of plastic and weighing about 40 pounds, giving the unit a high center of gravity and making it prone to tipping."

According to the plaintiffs' memorandum, Poly-San sold a heavier plastic base at about double the price. The company testified that the heavier base weighed somewhere between 110 to 130 pounds, according to the plaintiffs' memorandum.

Mr. Adams further alleged in the memorandum that Mr. Crawford was negligent for installing the unit on the side of a hill and propping it up with wood to make it level.

Mr. Crawford and Poly-San argued that the accident in would not have happened had it not been for the conduct of Mr. Grater and Mr. Weller, and that the relatives should be solely responsible.

Zack Needles: zneedles@alm.com or 215-557-2493. Read more stories like this at www.thelegalintelligencer.com.

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