Paralyzed Steelworker Wins $48 Million Verdict

01/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CROWN POINT, Ind. -- A Lake County jury has awarded $48 million in damages to a worker who has been a paraplegic since he was injured at a northwestern Indiana steel mill four years ago.

Anthony Arciniega, 42, of Westville fell from a ladder at ISG Burns Harbor -- now ArcelorMittal -- in November 2004. Court documents said the ladder was covered with refractory concrete due to the negligence of subcontractor Minteq International.

Through his attorney, Kenneth Allen, Arciniega issued a statement saying, "I'm thankful to the jury and for the hard work of my lawyer, but I'd give it back and then some if I could have my legs back."

Allen said he expects the case to be appealed.

The Associated Press left a message on Monday with Gregory Bakota, the attorney for Minteq International, seeking comment.

The jury reached its verdict on Thursday following a 10-day trial. Jurors determined half of the damages should be paid by Minteq and half by the steel mill, Allen said.

While the $48 million verdict is a large sum, it is not the largest in Indiana history. According to Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter, there have been verdicts of $60 million and $56.5 million since 2000.

Arciniega's doctors and co-workers testified at the trial that he returned to work in a wheelchair within six months of the accident, even though he suffered through nerve pain.

"I had to support my family," Arciniega said during questioning by attorneys. "Part of my responsibility as a husband and father is to put food on the table."

His wife, Sarah, a nurse, worked at a nursing home to try and make up for the family's lost income, as well as serving as Arciniega's nurse and taking care of their three children.

"Every day is a struggle for us but this verdict will make our lives much easier," Sarah Arciniega said after the verdict.