Company ordered to pay millions in truck driver's death

CANTON, Ohio - A jury ordered a company that manufactures beds for dump trucks to pay about $6 million to the widow of a man killed while working on his truck.

The jury deliberated for 2 1/2 hours Monday before ruling against the Heil Co., saying it produced a defective product because a safety device wasn't included with its dump-bed kit.

Sandra Ronske was awarded $5.99 million in the wrongful death claim and another $7,700 for funeral expenses. The lawsuit asked for about $5.8 million in damages.

An attorney for the company declined comment after the verdict, which followed a weeklong trial in Stark County Common Pleas Court.

According to the lawsuit, Robert Ronske, of Waynesburg, was crushed in September 2002 when the elevated dump bed of his truck silently lowered on him, pinning him against the frame.

Ronske was working on the truck when his body triggered a control valve. It took about four seconds for the bed to close, court records show.

In closing arguments last week, Sandra Ronske's attorney, Brian Zimmerman, said Heil didn't sufficiently alert distributors or consumers to a safety device that could protect them.

Heil's attorney, Lawrence Sutter, said the device should not be considered an alternative to safety procedures. Robert Ronske failed to follow safety protocol while doing maintenance work on the truck, he said.

In a separate case, the family reached a $289,000 settlement with America's Body Co., which installed the hydraulic dump bed, court records show.

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