Jury awards $3.2 million to widow of man killed in highway accident

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A Canonsburg woman won a $3.2 million jury verdict last month after her husband was killed when a piece of mining equipment fell off a tractor-trailer during transport in Washington County seven years ago.

Carri Collingwood filed the wrongful death complaint against Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co., O'Brien's Rent All and Sales, based in Wheeling, W.Va., and the driver of the tractor-trailer, John Milner, of Morristown, Ohio.

The verdict, returned Sept. 18, attributed 90 percent of the blame for Shawn Collingwood's death to Mr. Milner and O'Brien's, and the other 10 percent to Consol.

According to the complaint, Consol owned a coal shearer loader -- a large piece of mining equipment -- that it used at its Enlow Fork Mine in Washington and Greene counties.

The coal shearer needed repairs and was being transferred to facilities in Pittsburgh by O'Brien's.

The shearer included four large metal cylindrical pins, each weighing 123 pounds. Three of them were loaded in the goose neck of the trailer, while the fourth was placed unsecured on the top of the shearer, the complaint said.

On Dec. 8, 2005, at 1:30 p.m., Shawn Collingwood, 36, was driving his 2000 Chevy Silverado south on Route 221 in Washington County, while Mr. Milner was heading northbound with the tractor-trailer.

One of the cylinders on the trailer fell off, crashing through the front cab of Collingwood's windshield, killing him instantly.

The complaint alleged negligence for how the equipment was secured and also claimed that the trailer had two labels warning that it was not to be loaded from the side. Instead of heeding the warning and loading the shearer with a crane, the complaint said the shearer was loaded with a forklift from the side.

In a separate criminal case, Mr. Milner pleaded guilty to three summary traffic counts, including driving with an unsecured load, operating a vehicle with unsafe equipment and careless driving.

Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. is a subsidiary of Consol Energy. Lynn Seay, a spokeswoman with Consol, said the company will appeal.

"This was a horrific accident, but we strongly believe that Consol Energy was not responsible for it in any way," she said. "The trucking company and its driver took full responsibility for the accident at trial. For some reason, the jury found Consol 10 percent liable, but we think we have numerous and significant bases to appeal this verdict, and we intend to do so."

A message left with O'Brien's was not returned.

Collingwood worked as an engineer for a company that builds water filtration plants. His two daughters were 7 and 4 years old when he was killed.

neigh_washington

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620.


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