Wrongful death suit yields damages of more than $26,000

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | 11:55 p.m. CST; updated 4:49 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — The two children of a steelworker killed in a 2003 construction accident at the Columbia Transload Facility will each receive $26,694 when they turn 18, according to the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Prost Builders Inc., a frequent contractor for the City of Columbia, Vaughn Prost, president and owner of Prost Builders, and Pro Building Solutions Inc. settled Monday with the family of Christopher Tristan.

In September 2003, Tristan, then 27, was working on the frame of the rail terminal that services the COLT Short Line Railroad on North Brown Station Road. He was connecting free-standing steel columns when they collapsed, and he fell 30 feet. He was taken to University Hospital and remained in critical condition until he died from his injuries in October 2003.

According to filings in the settled lawsuit, Tristan’s attorney, Matt Woods, held that the collapse of the frame was the result of Prost Builders’ and their contractors’ various kinds of negligence, including not inspecting and securing the columns and foundations and not instructing employees on safe practices.

Tristan amassed $800,000 in medical bills during his stay in the hospital, which were covered by Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Company. Of the total $335,000 settlement, $140,000 was granted to the insurance company to settle a workers’ compensation subrogation lien, according to the case judgment.

Another $123,890 will go to the Eng & Woods legal firm.

Tristan’s father, Amador Tristan, who brought the suit, will receive $17,722, while Christopher Tristan’s children, Jordan and Evie Lundahl, will receive $26,694 when they turn 18.

After ordering some changes to the settlement, Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler found the settlement to be “in the best interests” of Tristan’s children, according to the official judgment.

Soon after the accident, city officials learned Prost did not have a permit to build on the site. The company was permitted to develop the foundation but had never scheduled an inspection the city required.

The first report of the 2003 accident was filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in February 2004, holding that Prost did not formally notify the labor contractor, J.D. Builders, about the condition of the concrete at the base of the steel frame that collapsed.

OSHA fined Prost $7,000 as a result.

J.D. Builders appealed their $6,000 fine, three of the charges were dropped and the fine was reduced.

Woods filed a circuit court petition in July 2004, suing many who were involved in the incident, including Intermodel Facility L.L.C., Advanced Concrete Technology and the City of Columbia.

The cases against Advanced Concrete Technology and the city were dismissed, and the cases against other companies were either withdrawn or dismissed.

Two other people were injured in the accident and hospitalized; both filed personal injury lawsuits. The case of Corey Sieckmann has been settled, but Trevor Kirby’s suit is ongoing. Woods, the lawyer for Prost Builders, and W. Hamp Ford Jr. of Ford, Parshall & Baker Law both cited confidentiality in the case and would not comment.

Prost Builders Inc., which is based in Jefferson City, did the original renovation of the Boone County Courthouse in 1993 and Jesse Hall, among other projects in Columbia, and has received other city project grants since the accident.

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