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Jury finds contractor negligent

November 30, 2000

Jury finds contractor negligent



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


A Washington County jury Wednesday found a Hagerstown contractor negligent in a construction accident that killed a pedestrian two years ago and awarded the man's estate $448,000.

Edward Milton Stoneberger, 47, of South Main Street in Smithsburg, was struck by a metal pipe that fell from a building being demolished by Victor C. Ditto Sr. on July 25, 1998. Stoneberger died 15 days later.

The contractor was using an 8-ton crane to demolish a two-story feed mill on Main Street in Smithsburg where the Smithsburg Market has since relocated.

The pipe bounced off the ground and struck Stoneberger in the head. Stoneberger was talking to one of Ditto's employees in an area open to pedestrians.

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The property was owned by Richard L. and Helen J. Reynolds, who were also named in the suit but were found not negligent.

Stoneberger's siblings, David W. Stoneberger, Florence Webb and Mary Stoneberger, were the plaintiffs. Candi Blessing, 15, the child of Mary Stoneberger, was also listed as a plaintiff.

"I was pleased. It was a fair verdict," said Stephen Prevas, the attorney for the family.

He called the dollar amount awarded appropriate.

Ditto died this year. Prevas said the plaintiffs would look to Ditto's insurance company for the award.

"We will appeal this verdict. I didn't think it was warranted," Ditto's attorney, John O'Neill Jr., said.

The jury decided Stoneberger did not contribute to his own death and awarded his estate $300,000 for pain and suffering, and $48,820 for funeral and medical costs.

Mary Stoneberger and her daughter Candi Blessing were each awarded $50,000. The two lived with Edward Stoneberger in Smithsburg and were dependent on his income, according to Prevas, of Baltimore.

Prevas said Edward Stoneberger was mentally impaired and his sister Mary Stoneberger and her daughter are also mentally impaired.

The three received a combined total of about $1,500 in public assistance each month, which was administered by Patsy Hays, a family friend.

She had been taking care of the Stoneberger family since their mother died 11 years ago, she said.

Hays said she was glad the trial was over and that "the truth came out."

She said she didn't think the money awarded was enough.

"I watched Eddie suffer and I think it should have been twice that," said Hays.

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