$6.65M in fatal air base fall

Auto Accidents

More than four years after John Bruce took a fatal fall at a military base in Kuwait, a Cook County jury has awarded the family of the Arlington Heights man $6.65 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Jurors in the civil case reached their decision against government contractor CAV International Inc. on Feb. 14 after a 10-day trial, according to court documents and the Bruce family lawyer, Tim Cavanagh.

“CAV claimed this wasn’t their fault, and a jury of 12 found their employee made a mistake that cost John this horrible brain injury and ultimately his death,” Cavanagh said.

Lawyers for CAV did not return calls seeking comment. CAV’s parent company also did not return a call for comment.

In October 2009, Bruce was working as a ramp serviceman for United Airlines at Al-Mubarak Air Base in Kuwait, according to the lawsuit.

Bruce was on a raised belt loader handling cargo from a Boeing 747 when a CAV employee moved it, causing the man to fall about 12 feet, Cavanagh said.

The impact caused “significant brain injury,” requiring surgery before doctors overseas declared Bruce brain-dead, the lawyer said. Bruce was flown home and taken off life support six days later at a hospital. He was 64.

The lawsuit claims the CAV employee was talking with others and distracted when he moved the loader while Bruce was still on it, and that the company was negligent because it failed to properly train or supervise that employee.

“They were responsible for (the employee’s) actions and inactions,” Cavanagh said.

Bruce had worked for years as a liaison for United on charter flights for the military as well as for several Chicago sports teams, including the White Sox, Cubs and Bears, his widow, Cleopatra “Patty” Bruce, previously told the Tribune.

Patty Bruce, a teacher at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

“This is a tragedy, and it should never have occurred,” she said in 2010. “My husband was serving the country for United Airlines. We would like answers, and we would like justice.”

The Bruce family lawyer also slammed CAV, saying the company did not provide information or closure about Bruce’s death and has never reached out to the family.

“They fought the Bruce family at every step of the litigation, and I think the family is satisfied that justice has been served,” Cavanagh said.

In addition to his wife, John Bruce is survived by two sons, the lawyer said.