A Northern Virginia construction worker, partially paralyzed when his ex-boss ran over him with a truck after a dispute over back pay, has been awarded nearly $400,000 in damages by an Alexandria Circuit Court jury.
A court official said later it was one of the largest personal injury awards ever made by an Alexandria jury.
The former employe, Phillip Otto Reisen, who was hospitalized for 43 days, suffered a lacerated liver, collapsed lung, fractured ribs and a fractured skull in the accident, according to court documents. Reisen said he is paralyzed on the right side of his body, has difficulty speaking and cannot work.
The injuries followed a disagreement over $33 in overtime pay that Reisen claimed he was owed by his former employer, Jack W. Goins of Clifton the president of Northern Virginia Masonry Co., the documents said.
Reisen, 35, said it was the principle -- not to get "a lousy $33" -- that made him continue to seek the money for several months after he left his job with Goins.
"I strongly believed that he owed it to me, and it was more or less the point he owed it to me, and I deserved it." Reisen said in a sworn pretrial deposition.
Reisen said he had been unable to talk to Goins directly about the money after he stopped working for him in late 1978 or early 1979, but said he told Goins' bookkeeper and other workers about it.
On the morning of April 27, 1979, Reisen said he unexpectedly spotted Goins sitting in a truck in the 200 block of S. West Street in downtown Alexandria.
"I asked him about the money he owed me, and he sort of laughed at me . . ." Reisen said in court papers. Reisen said he then pulled his Jeep in front of Goins' truck, got out and started to walk toward Goins when Goins suddenly threw something at him.
Reisen said he ducked away and then "It [the truck] was right on top of me . . . There was no way in the world I could have done anything. It seemed like I was hit square in the front of the nose of that truck."
Goins pleaded guilty last January to criminal charges of reckless driving and hit and run growing out of the incident. He was fined $1,000 and given a suspended sentence.
Goins' lawyer, Bennett Brown, said yesterday that the damage verdict returned this week by the seven-member jury -- for $372,686 -- will not be appealed.
Goins testified at the trial that he did not recall running over Reisen and had not intended to do so. He said Reisen had provoked the incident by cursing him and spitting at him.