Company sued in fatal crane accident uninsured

Wife of worker killed in accident won $2.5 verdict, headed back to court

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A St. Augustine woman is still having to fight for her husband who was killed two years ago in a crane accident at the Jacksonville Port Authority's Talleyrand Terminal.

Tony Roberts (pictured below with wife) died when a crane he was operating to dismantle another crane collapsed. His wife won a $2.5 million verdict in October when a court ruled the company that owned the crane, Draper Enterprises, was at fault. However, she later found out the crane company was not properly insured.

The crane company had filed paperwork saying it was insured, but no one bothered to check to see if the premium was actually paid. So now Eleanor Roberts is going back in court to sue the insurance company to get what the court says she is entitled to.

"I know you can't put a price on a human being, but what I am trying to tell is, I lost a loving husband, a good friend and a caring father," said Roberts, the anguish in her voice audible.

Her attorney, Steve Pajcic, says the crane company had a host of problems.

"Draper ran a slipshod operation out there," Pajcic said. "They jerry-rigged how the load was going to be unloaded. They did not have a tag line. They thought the load was half as big as it was; it was 16 tons heavier. It turns out they were running a very unsafe operation, and that is why Tony died."

Pajcic uncovered that Draper Enterprises never did have proper insurance, despite the paperwork it filed.

A second suit was filed Monday against the insurance agent that claimed the company had insurance and even accepted a premium payment, though the money was never put toward the insurance.

"They should not have been there because if they can't get insurance for one reason or another, they should not be there," Pajcic said. "Yet this insurance agency said they got insurance when they didn't."

Pajcic said the family is getting hit with a double whammy, first by the company, which he said used reckless behavior at the port that ended up killing Roberts, and then the insurance agency, which he said never obtained insurance that would cover the cost of Roberts' death.

"This needs to stop before they kill somebody else," Eleanor Roberts said.

The company and insurance agent has not yet commented on the case.

JaxPort's attorneys say it is not responsible because it was a private company dismantling the crane.

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