Stanford sued over worker's death

Man crushed between garbage truck and Dumpster

Denise De Lappe is suing Stanford University and fraternity Phi Kappa Psi for negligence after her son, a sanitation worker, was killed while unloading trash at Stanford into his garbage truck last year.

Jonathan Dillon Marino, an employee of Peninsula Sanitary Services, was loading the on-campus fraternity's Dumpster onto his garbage truck on March 9 when he was crushed between the Dumpster and the truck. The lawsuit contends that the layout of the garbage area at the fraternity house was unsafe and contributed to Marino's death, according to De Lappe's attorney, Nikolaus W. Reed.

Reed said the garbage area was positioned in such a way that it couldn't be accessed by truck and was particularly dangerous because of the incline that led up to it.

The combination of these two factors caused Marino to lose control of the Dumpster, which he chased after by jumping out of the truck, Reed said. The truck then began to roll down hill, crushing Marino against the Dumpster, which had hit a parked car parked on the side of Santa Ynez street. After hitting Marino, the truck continued down the hill across an intersection.

"We're pursuing the fraternity and Stanford who owned it for keeping the property in an unsafe condition," Reed said. "Our position is that it should have arranged the Dumpster and parking area without having a steep incline that was a danger to him."

Thomas Ott, fleet manager and safety officer for Peninsula Sanitary Services, said that investigations by his company, California Highway Patrol and a local dealer that sells the truck determined that the accident was the result of user error.

As Marino noticed that the Dumpster was rolling toward a car and jumped out of the truck to grab it, he neglected to engage his parking brake, Ott said.

"He was a good young man -- very conscientious -- and that's unfortunately part of the reason the accident happened: He was going to stop the Dumpster from hitting that car," he said. "It was just an unfortunate accident. He did the right thing but unfortunately didn't follow the right procedure."

There were no witnesses to the accident, he said.

Marino was transported to Stanford Hospital for treatment where he stayed for weeks. Ott said he hadn't been optimistic about Marino's recovery until doctors began weaning him off his sedation medicine.

"I rubbed his forearm and said 'I've got to go to work now,' and he reached across his body with his right hand and shook my hand," he said. "I thought he was going to make it, but when I went back that afternoon they were trying to revive him."

Marino died the next morning after being taken off life support.

Ott said that this is the first accident resulting in serious injury in his 20 years of experience there.

"He was part of our family. We are a small company, and he was a great young man -- what I like to call a throwback -- a gentleman in all aspects," he said. "A lesser person probably wouldn't have reacted like he did."

Stanford spokesperson Lisa Lapin told the Weekly that, from the university's perspective, it had no involvement in what she called "a tragic accident."

Phi Kappa Psi could not immediately be reached for comment on this story. More information about the case will be posted as it becomes available.


Like this comment
Posted by LindaLoo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

[Portion removed.] So it's Stanfords fault that this guy jumped out of the truck, failing to put it in park or secure the emergency brake? [Portion removed.]
Bottom line, because of a lapse in judgement, a young man lost his life. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Stanford Alum
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 16, 2013 at 10:39 am

An accident occurred and sadly a life was lost. But the litigious nature of our society is completely out of control.

Had the worker complained to his company, the fraternity and the university about the unsafe conditions previously? Had the company spoken to the fraternity and university about the unsafe condition and they chose not to do anything about it? Or was the garbage bin in the same spot for the past 20 years with no issues? Is this the first time that the garbage bin rolled away, or has it occurred many times? [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Well, well
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

You can sue for anything, but that does not mean you will win. The judge will probably throw this out of court.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Good. I hope that the family makes a killing, given that Stanford's idiocy set up the dangerous situation & that was the underlying factor of the man getting killed.

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Some jobs are naturally risky, not that this proves that point because the victim seems to have caused his own death. But after the judge determines that Stanford is not liable, I hope the judge slaps the family for court costs for bringing up such a stupid law suit. It is obvious that some lawyer has persuaded this family to take on Stanford because they think that the University has money and will settle out of court because it doesn't want it's name dragged down and it will cost the more to settle. It is very sick indeed, and the courts need to stop or discourage these sort of lawsuits.

Like this comment
Posted by D Marie
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Pathetic case. Hope it gets thrown out. A loss is always sad, but Stanford nor PSS are responsible for that mans death.
My condolences to the family. Advice: don't be greedy, morn in peace.

Like this comment
Posted by Otis
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Given the limited facts available it's interesting that some of you can predict the outcome of this case. That being said, this was an on the job injury and the exclusive remedy is workers' compensation, unless it was caused or partially caused by a negligent third party. You will note that PSS was not sued, but the University and the fraternity were. As to PSS, workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that (with some exceptions) even if the young man was at fault in causing the accident, its workers' compensation insurance carrier is still liable. In a death case, burial expenses would be paid as well as benefits to dependents. It is not clear from the story whether the young man had any dependents or whether his mother was a dependent. These cases can be extremely complex, needles to say.

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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

The Lawyers win either way.
As many pointed out: you can sue.
The other party MUST defend, even to get the case dismissed otherwise they lose by default.

Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 17, 2013 at 4:11 am

So because the dumpster was positioned on a hill and the driver lost control of it, it rolling away, he in a hurry and no doubt concerned the runaway dumpster might injure or kill someone, jumped out of the truck and was in such a concerned hurry he didn't engage the emergency brake. So then the truck itself also goes down that same hill (which ugh maybe shouldn't have been where he was parked if the dumpster was not in an unsafe place) and he gets killed. He should have just shrugged his shoulder and lit up a cigar and tried to guess where the dumpster would end up. Why if he had lived he could then return to the site every week and go Dumpster Bowling. Instead he was put in a dangerous situation, made the mistake of giving a flake, and is now dead. Kids, let this be a lesson to you!

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Posted by W H Wheels
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

The problem only resulted because the now deceased worker failed to set the parking break. Though I'll take some heat for this comment, the neighborhood has a good argument for suing the deceased man's estate for the damage his negligence caused! Can the one who caused the accident be called the victim (or perpetrator)?

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Posted by Sloppy work
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Ever see a garbage collector work? They rush (and occasionally you will see them run) from pickup to pickup because as soon as they are done with their route, they are done for the day. Although very sad that someone lost their life, he was mostly likely rushing and ignored safety precautions. The world is not flat, and there are thousands of garbage pickups per day in the Bay Area. How many of these types of accidents have happened? Probably 0-1 which points the blame to operator error. I'm sure lawyers are lining up to take on this case hoping to make a name for themselves.

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Posted by Ambulance Chasers
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Obviously, the only winner will be the lawyers. I once won $30,000 from my insurance company for their failure to pay a claim, but after the lawyer was paid, I had $7500 left. Not worth the effort. Took three years, didn't even pay my medical bills.

Like this comment
Posted by Another Mother
a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hopefully Stanford will take this lawsuit seriously, because a young man died. Hopefully Stanford will take notice and make the necessary changes so thousand-pound dumpsters can be loaded on a level surface and positioned in a safe way for pick-up.
I wonder if some of the above comments might be different, if this young man had been a Stanford student, and this had been his "side" job. Or is that out of the realm of possibility--a Stanford student actually having to earn a living--and retrieving trash, no less? Bottom line: this man's truck was unable to access the dumpster; he was forced to manually retrieve it; and because of that, a young man described as "conscientious" and "a gentleman" was crushed and died an agonizing death. I hope no mother ever has to endure what this young man' s mother must have endured...and that Stanford literally cleans up its act.

Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:21 am

Stanford may do what it wants as it always does. I just hope that this young man's friends, family and co-workers take note of all the despicable, arrogant, self-righteous comments by the Palo Alto/Stanford elites above. And draw the obvious conclusions as to how they view these people.

For the birds are angry and coming for the pigs.

You people make this too easy.

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 19, 2013 at 1:42 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

I've been haunted since reading this, as I realize I saw the aftermath of the accident, but hadn't learned what had happened until this piece. I was driving to campus and found the street blocked and full of police and firemen. It is all the more troubling that the young man may have died because he was conscientious in doing his job. It's a tragic situation, and I'm dismayed by the callous comments here. I suspect Stanford will do the right thing and make some sort of settlement, or so I hope.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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