PRIMGHAR, Iowa | An O'Brien County jury has awarded an Alton, Iowa, man nearly $1.2 million for injuries he suffered after being poisoned by toxic gases inside a hog confinement barn.
The jury found Patrick Probst negligent for the Oct. 17, 2014, incident, in which Thomas Mook was overcome by hydrogen sulfide and other gases inside a barn Probst owned in rural Archer, Iowa. Mook was unconscious for 15-30 minutes and suffered two strokes resulting in brain damage that has caused Mook permanent partial short-term memory loss, his attorney, Stan Munger, of Sioux City, said.
At the conclusion of a 13-day trial, jurors deliberated for more than three hours Tuesday afternoon before deciding to award Mook $1.19 million.
Mook, 54, had spent the day prior to his injury power washing the barn, which was owned by Probst and had been leased to Sunterra Farms Iowa, a Canadian hog grower with a location in Hull, Iowa.
On the same day Mook was cleaning the barn, Probst had been pumping manure from the pit beneath the barn, agitating the manure and releasing the hydrogen sulfide gas. Evidence was presented at trial showing that the barn had not been ventilated prior to Mook's arrival to continue washing the barn the following morning.
Mook was overcome by the gas when he entered the office at the barn, and he was not breathing when Probst and another man found him.
Mook spent several weeks in hospitals and underwent two years of physical therapy, Munger said, and he is unable to work, though he can now live independently.
Mook sued Probst, Probst's farming corporations and Sunterra Farms in O'Brien County District Court in February 2016.
The jury found that Probst should have known that the conditions at the barn presented an unreasonable risk of injury to Mook and that his negligence was a proximate cause of injury to Mook. Jurors found Probst 50 percent at fault for the injuries to Mook, who was found 15 percent responsible. The jury found Sunterra Farms 35 percent responsible.
Munger said Mook reached a confidential settlement with Sunterra Farms prior to trial.