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Family of VA Man Killed by His Own House in Tornado wins $1.7M Award

Path of tornado Surry Co. to Mathews Co., including Gloucester Co., VA. April 16, 2011

A jury in Virginia awarded $1.7 million in a construction defect case to the family  of a Gloucester, Virginia man who was killed when a tornado dropped his own modular house on him.

Richard Ingram, 53, was killed on April 16, 2011, when a tornado lifted his home off of its foundation and crashed it into a nearby garage where he was working.  Robert J. Haddad, the attorney representing Ingram’s estate, argued that Ingram’s modular home had not been properly anchored to its foundation.

Circuit Court Judge Frederick B. Lowe instructed the jury that the contractor which installed Ingram’s home, Custom Builders Express, had violated several portions of the building code.  Judge Lowe said the only thing for jurors to decide was whether the contractor’s negligence was a proximate cause of Ingram’s death.

The tornado had a nearly continuous damage path ranging in width from around 200 yards to as much as a half mile wide in Gloucester county, according to the National Weather Service. Over 200 homes were damaged with many of these homes severely damaged. Numerous trees were downed or sheared off.

Defense attorney C. Jay Robbins IV, representing Benchmark Insurance Co., argued that the EF-3 tornado was so powerful that Ingram’s home would have been ripped from its foundation even if it had been anchored.  Robbins also told jurors that the garage where Ingram was working had already been destroyed by the tornado, and that Ingram was likely killed before the house was blown onto the garage.  After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Ingram’s estate, which had sought $2.4 million in damages.  Robbins has appealed the verdict.

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