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Shouldering the blame

By Mary Ann Gormly

October 4, 2023

ARA InsuranceA local business was hosting an event and needed a stage for a band that was to perform. They contacted the rental store they always turned to for such items and rented a mobile stage.

The rental store employees showed up on the designated morning to set up the stage. The area was already bustling with activity. There were food trucks, craft booths, a petting zoo and many other attractions. All were being set up at the same time in the same general vicinity.

Vendors walked back and forth in front of the staging area as they set up their sites. At one point, a truck drove by with goats bleating in the back and llamas being led were walking nearby. They were headed towards the petting zoo. It was a very congested and confusing scene.

The manager for the rental store parked the delivery truck along a fence line with the intent of unfolding and setting up the staging. This is where the main entertainment would be, so it was literally in the middle of everything. He and his employees got out and began the unloading process.

The staging was being set up approximately two feet away from the fence. The employees were familiar with set up as they had done this many times. They each had their assigned tasks, so it was a smooth operation. During the process, one employee lost control of a hinged panel causing it to fall into place rather than a controlled positioning.

As the panel fell, a very loud, “Ouch!” was heard from behind the panel. An employee of one of the food trucks had for some reason walked behind the area where the stage was being set up and was struck by the falling panel.

The employees quickly looked behind the stage and saw a man up against the fence holding his shoulder. They helped him around to the front of the area and called the paramedics over to check him out. He was sent home with instructions to make an appointment with his primary care physician or to go to urgent care or the emergency room if his pain worsened.

Just 10 days later the rental store owner received a certified letter from the injured man’s attorney. The letter stated that the attorney was representing the man for injuries he suffered when the stage panel collapsed onto his shoulder. The man was currently in physical therapy. It was thought at that time that further treatment was needed with the possibility of surgery in the future.

The rental store owner contacted their insurance agent who opened a claim for the injury the man sustained. An investigation was started and the employees who were at the site that day were asked to provide their statements. They all talked about how chaotic the area was. A couple of the workers wondered why the man had even been behind the area where they were setting up the stage.

The investigation showed the employees of the rental store had not secured the area where they were working with ropes or cones, nor did they otherwise restrict access between the fence and the truck.

After weeks of treatment, it was determined the injured man would need surgery. The man had a tear in the lower rim of the labrum. He had other related injuries and residual pain following the surgery.

The initial demand from the man’s attorney was for policy limits. The injured man had medical expenses and lost wages of approximately $250,000. After much discussion and back and forth offers, the claim was settled for just under $400,000.

Mary Ann Gormly is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit