The Crane Lawsuit

My first experience with being involved in a lawsuit didn’t take long once I got out into the working world. Sometime in late 1970 we leased a truck out to Charlie Evans Trucking. Mr. Evans had been a trucker in Austin for many years and decided to expand his business by opening a terminal in San Antonio. I had just turned 18 years old. I decided it would be a good adventure to go there and live in an old run down motel and make hauls all around San Antonio. The Spur Motel was just a block or so down the frontage road from the trucking yard, so it was convenient, even if it wasn’t a great place to stay. This was over on the east side of San Antonio on I-10.

If there wasn’t anything to haul I’d go watch TV, on a fuzzy rolling screen. This was well before the days of cable TV. When a haul would come in, the dispatcher would call the motel and they’d come beat on the door to tell me I was needed. The place didn’t have phones in each room.

A call came in for a crane to be hauled from the new power plant being built on Calaveres Lake, out east of town back to the dealership, on north 1-35. It was a 35 ton rough terrain type crane, a cherrypicker as it’s know in the business. By the time I got to the jobsite it was quitting time, so everyone headed to their cars and left. The crane was right where I was told it would be, so I dropped my lowboy trailer on the edge of the entry road coming into the project.

The momentum of the machine rolling over made it impossible for me to jump from the left side and the prospects of landing on the deck of the trailer or the hard packed gravel road wasn’t very good anyway. So I lunged as far off the right side as I could.

The crane was parked out in a muddy field, as it had just came a nice rain earlier in the day. I got on it drove it over to the lowboy and backed it up onto the deck of the trailer. Just as I got in in place it started to slowly slide. Everything was happening in slow motion. I knew there was nothing to stop it from sliding all the way off. My only hope was the right side tires would hit the ground and everything would stop. Well it didn’t stop. Once I felt the jolt from the tires hitting the ground, it continued to roll right over onto its side.

This is similar to the machine I was loading that day.

I didn’t feel like I was very well equipped to turn it back over and load it, so I hooked back up to my trailer and went back to the yard. I told the lady in the office what had happened the next morning. She made calls to the dealership that had ordered the move.

When the machine finally came to rest on the ground, my feet were just inches from the edge of the boom. I remember laying there a few moments, collecting my thoughts. No one ever came out of the field offices, that were close by. Several vehicles were still parked there, but I suppose they didn’t hear the commotion.

It was all in the hands of the insurance company and attorneys from that point. I became well versed in answering interrogatories and testifying in court. It was all good experience for what would follow in the coming years.

After this incident and several others, Mr. Evans decided he would close that San Antonio operation. I can’t say that I blamed him. It just seemed snake-bit and wasn’t meant to be.

As many problems as this caused for Mr. Evans, he never seemed to be the least bit upset with me. He took it all in stride. We remained friends for the rest of his life.