Contractor Failed to Follow MUTCD Guidelines When Signing for Construction Work Zone Haul Road Controlled by Flaggers; Tennessee Appellate Court Confirms Contractor’s Liability in Motorist’s DeathAbstract:
This case involves claims of negligence and wrongful death arising out of an accident at a highway construction site. The jury found the defendant construction company 70% negligent and the decedent 30% negligent. The defendant appeals to this Court.
In 1992, Defendant/Appellant Jones Brothers Construction, Inc. (“Jones Brothers”) was performing a highway construction project for the State of Tennessee on a 9.2-mile stretch of Highway 412 between Jackson and Dyersburg. The speed limit along the length of the project was 55 miles per hour. At one point in this 9.2-mile stretch, Jones Brothers constructed a “haul road,” metal plates placed across the highway that served as a crossing point for earthmoving vehicles called “scrapers.” The scrapers carried loads of dirt from one side of the road to the other. There was a series of warning signs on either side of the crossing, and two flaggers were placed thirty feet from the crossing on either side to stop oncoming traffic when a scraper needed to cross the highway.
To stop or slow traffic, each flagger was given a sign on a pole approximately six feet tall. One side of the sign said “Stop,”and the other side said “Slow.” When no scrapers were crossing the road, the flagger would stand with the “Slow” side facing oncoming traffic. When a scraper approached to cross the haul road, the flagger would turn the “Stop” side of the sign towards oncoming vehicles in order to halt traffic for the scraper to cross.
On the morning of August 26, 1992, Floyd and Irene Scott were traveling eastbound on Highway 412. They entered the 9.2-mile construction area. Signs within the 9.2-mile stretch warned approaching motorists of the upcoming haul road crossing. Roger Holland (“Holland”) was driving a scraper. He moved from the side of the highway toward the haul road with a load of dirt, preparing to cross. Jose Arellanes (“Arellanes”) was the flagger assigned to the side of the haul road facing eastbound traffic. Holland noticed the Scotts’ vehicle as it approached the crossing, but he assumed it would stop and proceeded to cross the highway. The record contains conflicting testimony on whether Arellanes had turned the “Stop” sign towards the Scotts. The Scotts’ vehicle did not slow down and collided with Holland’s scraper. Both Floyd and Irene Scott were injured. Irene Scott recovered, but Floyd Scott eventually died as a result of his injuries.