Puyallup man hurt on job at Sea-Tac Airport wins $40 million judgment

A King County jury has awarded $40 million to a Puyallup man paralyzed while working at Sea-Tac Airport.

The verdict in favor of Brandon Afoa came Tuesday.

Afoa sued the Port of Seattle, which runs the airport, in 2009, claiming it failed to provide a safe working environment, which contributed to the accident that left him without the use of his legs and right arm.

Afoa was hurt when the vehicle he was driving, which is called a pushback or tug, lost its brakes and steering and crashed into a broken cargo loader in the airport’s South Satellite area. The vehicles are used to push large aircraft away from gates.

The wreck occurred Dec. 26, 2007. Alfoa was 25 at the time.

Among other arguments, Afoa contended that the airport allowed “excessive clutter” to accumulate in the ramp area where the crash occurred.

Airport lawyers countered the accident was caused solely by the malfunction of the pushback’s mechanical systems, which were to be maintained by the company for which Afoa worked.

The airport had no duty or responsibility to ensure that Afoa’s employer, Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprises, properly maintained its vehicles, airport lawyers argued.

“There is no evidence that the plaintiff’s accident would have occurred had the brakes and steering not failed,” airport lawyers wrote in pleadings.

The jury saw it otherwise, and apportioned 25 percent of the blame for the accident to Sea-Tac Airport.

Jurors said a number of airlines, who weren’t part of the lawsuit, bore the majority of the rest of the blame. The jury also said Afoa was 0.2 percent negligent.

Afoa’s attorney, Raymond Bishop, said Thursday that it will be up to King County Judge Judith Ramseyer to determine how much of the judgment will be the port’s responsibility.

Lawyers for both sides are preparing written pleadings with their positions, Bishop said.

“Right now, nobody knows,” he said.