Boggs ex rel. Boggs v. Lay

Decision Date21 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. ED 83795.,No. ED 83754.,ED 83754.,ED 83795.
Citation164 S.W.3d 4
PartiesChristian D. BOGGS, By And Through His Next Friend, Sheila Boggs, Respondents, v. Eddie LAY, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Appellants, and Dean Hinkle, et al., Defendants.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Susan F. Robertson, Columbia, MO, Douglas R. Richmond, Kansas City, MO, Patrick J. Kenny, St. Louis, MO, Michael L. Matula, Kansas City, MO, for appellants.

Ronald R. McMillin, Ann K. Covington, Rudolph L. Veit, Jefferson City, MO, Kenneth Lee Marshall, Webster Groves, MO, for respondents.

LAWRENCE E. MOONEY, Presiding Judge.

Chris Boggs left his home on his bike one afternoon to deliver newspapers. Chris rode down his driveway and out into the street between two stopped trucks and was hit by a tractor-trailer truck hauling soybean meal for the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM). At the time he was injured, Chris was thirteen years old and living with his grandmother on East Holt Street in Mexico, Missouri. Holt Street runs east-west through a residential neighborhood, with houses lining both sides of the street. At the west end of Holt Street, near Chris's home, is a soybean-processing facility, owned and operated by defendant ADM. The facility was built in the early 1950's. ADM has operated the facility since 1985.

ADM processes soybeans into a variety of products, including meal and oil, at the Holt Street facility. Trucks filled with soybeans enter the facility via Holt Street, are weighed "full" at a scale located near the entrance to the facility, and then proceed further into the facility grounds to dump the beans into a "bean dump." The trucks then return to the scale, are weighed again "empty," and then exit the facility via Holt Street. As to the meal generated at the Holt Street facility, ADM hires trucks — meal haulers — to pick up the meal from the facility and then deliver it to ADM's customers. The meal haulers enter the facility from Holt Street, are weighed "empty" at the scale, and then proceed further into the facility to be loaded with meal. The meal haulers then return to the scale, are weighed "full," and then exit the facility via Holt Street. The City of Mexico has designated Holt Street as the only lawful route for trucks to enter and leave the ADM facility.

Access onto the ADM scale is controlled by a red-green light located on both sides of an office building next to the scale. The light is manually controlled by ADM's scale operator, and is designed to direct trucks on and off of the scale. If there is a green light, the truck may enter the scale; if there is a red light, the truck may not enter the scale. Historically, if unable to drive directly onto ADM's scale, the soybean truck drivers would queue up on Holt Street. The drivers typically would stop on the street, stay behind the wheel, perhaps setting their emergency brake, and wait until able to drive onto the scale and proceed with delivery of the soybeans. At other times, trucks would park on the street, and the drivers would exit their vehicles. Holt Street, as a typical residential street, is not particularly wide, measuring only twenty-nine feet wide. A standard trailer truck is eight feet wide. The street is not wide enough for vehicles to be parked on both sides of the street and still allow for two lanes of travel. As one resident testified, to pass the queued trucks, one must drive down the middle of the street.

While trucks filled with soybeans waited on Holt Street for entrance to the ADM facility, certain other trucks did not wait in line typically the meal haulers. ADM had instructed the drivers of the meal trucks to pass the queued soybean trucks and to drive down the wrong side of the street in order to enter the ADM facility as a "first-priority" trucker.

Testimony from residents showed that, at times, there could be up to thirty trucks lined up, bumper-to-bumper, all the way down Holt Street. Truck traffic on Holt Street varies by the season and by the price of soybeans, with increased traffic seen during harvest time and when the price of soybeans rose. But as ADM's plant manager, Mr. Stumpe, acknowledged, there could be a backup on Holt Street at other times of the year. Trucks queuing up on Holt Street while waiting to deliver soybeans to the ADM facility was a long-standing problem that residents had complained to the police about for many years. Residents had complained that the trucks were noisy and would block driveways along the street. Mr. Stumpe acknowledged that ADM knew of the residents' complaints. At the time of trial, there had been ongoing discussions for over ten years between ADM and the Mexico Department of Public Safety regarding the problem of trucks stacking up on the street and blocking driveways. Mr. Stumpe acknowledged that ADM was aware its facility was in a residential neighborhood with pedestrians, cyclists, and children. He also admitted that having trucks parked on the street was not "the most ideal situation," and that it could create a dangerous situation.

In the fall of 1992, nearly three years before Chris's injury, ADM bought a vacant piece of property directly adjacent to its facility. This property is commonly referred to as the "Mo-Con" lot. As Mr. Stumpe testified, one reason ADM purchased the Mo-Con lot was to ease the traffic congestion on Holt Street by using the lot as a parking lot where arriving truck drivers could queue up and wait until it was their turn to enter the scales. ADM also purchased the lot for storing equipment and for large maintenance activities.

When ADM first purchased the Mo-Con lot, it was in a state of disrepair and in no condition to be used as a parking lot for the trucks. The lot was muddy and overgrown with weeds and brush. ADM began clearing and repairing the lot in the summer of 1993, with the idea of having the lot ready for truck parking for harvest time in the fall. ADM used the parking lot for a few weeks during the fall of 1993, and then ruts began to develop and drainage problems appeared that necessitated a ditch being dug in 1994. In 1995, ADM began a project to install new processing equipment in its bean-prep building. ADM used the northwest corner of the Mo-Con lot to store the equipment for its project. Mr. Stumpe testified ADM tried to keep the lot open during the project, but would close the lot when newly delivered equipment was being unloaded, or when cranes were being used to move equipment on the lot. The Mo-Con lot is a large area, and can accommodate up to 60 trucks.

On the day Chris was injured, September 15, 1995, three Hinkle Brothers' trucks were headed to ADM to deliver soybeans. Darrin Hinkle was driving the first truck, followed by Randy Nolke and Dean Hinkle, respectively. Darrin Hinkle testified that he knew the Mo-Con lot was there, but when he drove past the lot he saw that the gate was closed, and so proceeded further down Holt Street towards the ADM facility. When Darrin Hinkle approached the end of Holt Street he saw an outbound truck on ADM's scale, and the scale light was red. He stopped on Holt Street to wait for the red scale light to change to green. The driver of the second truck, Randy Nolke, stopped behind Darrin Hinkle's truck, just in front of a "No Parking" sign. He put his emergency brake on and waited for the green light so that he could move forward once Darrin Hinkle drove onto the scale. The back part of Nolke's truck was in front of the driveway to Chris's house. As Nolke's truck came to a stop, the third driver, Dean Hinkle, eased in behind Nolke's truck. There was approximately fifteen feet between the back of Nolke's truck and the front of Dean Hinkle's truck. Although Dean Hinkle pulled up far enough to clear the driveway behind his truck, he too also partially blocked Chris's driveway. Whether the Mo-Con lot was open on this date was disputed at trial. All the defendant truck drivers testified that the gate to the lot was shut.

In the meantime, Chris had arrived home from school and had folded the newspapers he was to deliver. He then got on his bike and saw that two trucks were stopped in front of his driveway. To his left, Dean Hinkle's truck blocked Chris's vision down the street. To his right, Randy Nolke's truck blocked his vision up the street. Chris rode out onto Holt Street in between Dean Hinkle's truck and Randy Nolke's truck, and collided with a tractor-trailer truck driven by Eddie Lay. Lay, a meal hauler headed towards ADM to pick up a load, was driving west in the eastbound lane of Holt Street, driving between a parked car on his left and the Hinkle and Nolke trucks on his right. When Lay had turned onto Holt Street and saw the line-up of trucks, he had decided to go past the stopped trucks, as ADM had told him to do. As he made his way past the stopped trucks, he suddenly felt the rear tandems of his truck pick up in the air and slam to the pavement. Lay had not seen Chris on his bike. Lay immediately stopped, exited his truck, and discovered Chris under the back tires of his truck.

Chris suffered serious and permanent injuries. Chris sustained head injuries, multiple fractures, internal injuries, and a crushed pelvis, among other injuries. He initially spent over three weeks in the hospital, and underwent multiple surgeries over the next several years. During the time Chris was in eighth and ninth grade, he was required to wear a catheter and a urine bag. Surgeries have enabled Chris to urinate normally. Chris no longer has a normally functioning left foot, and he has no sexual function.

Chris brought suit alleging negligence against ADM, Eddie Lay, and the drivers of the three...

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