AUGUSTA — A jury decided Wednesday a Belgrade concrete company will pay the estate of a Monmouth man $3.5 million in a wrongful death suit.

Philip M. Coward died in 2014 when a load of rebar fell from a forklift and onto him at his workplace, Mid-Maine Foundations Inc., on Howard Road in Monmouth. He was 30. After the incident, Coward’s estate sued Gagne and Sons Concrete Blocks Inc., of Belgrade, seeking compensation.

Attorney Jason Dionne represented Coward’s estate and Attorney Verne Paradis represented a party-in-interest Justine Schroeder, the mother of one of Coward’s children.

Dionne told the Kennebec Journal on Friday that the he was “pleased that the jury understood the gravity” of the Coward’s family’s loss.

According to court documents, the judgment’s financial compensation has three parts:

• $2 million for Coward’s loss of comfort, society and companionship;


• $1,519,291 in pecuniary damage; and

• $10,601.50 in “reasonable funeral expenses.”

The full payout will be reduced to $2,029,892 because Maine law caps loss of comfort, society and companionship payouts to $500,000. Paradie said the money will go to Coward’s two daughters.

Paradie said the trial lasted two-and-a-half days and the judgment was in the amount that he and co-counsel recommended to the jury.

“The family is relieved that it’s over and the trial caused them to relive a lot of memories from five years ago,” he said. “It was traumatic for everyone then and it was traumatic now.”

Gagne and Sons attorney Bill Druary said it was too early to comment on a potential appeal. Druary called the case “tragic” and said he hoped “the verdict and judgment will help the healing process.”


“The case was well-tried by both sides and, ultimately, represented a fair result for the Coward estate,” Druary said in an email. “Although this may sound strange coming from a defense lawyer, Gagne wanted the jury to award an amount that would provide for the two children left behind.”

Druary said he and his client “respect” the jury’s decision and the verdict was “fairly close” to what he recommended to the jury.

“I should also point out that Gagne took complete responsibility for the underlying accident, and I told the jury this in my opening statement,” he added. “There was no attempt in the trial to evade responsibility or blame anybody else.”

In 2014, Monmouth Police Chief Kevin Mulherin said Coward was unloading a delivery from Gagne & Sons around 10:45 a.m. that day. The forks on the forklift somehow fell forward, causing the load of rebar — steel bars used to reinforce concrete — to shift and fall off the forks and onto Coward, crushing him, Mulherin said.

The lawsuit said that Gagne’s “employees were unloading the rebar from the truck with a fork lift owned and/or maintained by (Gagne). Due to negligence of the defendant and/or its employees, the forklift failed to maintain the load of rebar and the entire load fell on Philip Coward, crushing him.”

The Kennebec Journal reported in 2016 that Gagne and Sons were handed $9,800 in penalties by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Aug. 8, 2014, for three violations categorized as “serious” in connection with the fatal accident.

Mid-Maine Foundations is owned by Coward’s father and stepmother, Thomas and Lisa Coward. Thomas Coward acted as the personal representative of Philip Coward’s estate.

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