GWC Injury Lawyers attorneys Bennett J. Baker and Michael A. Knobloch recently obtained a $1,137,500.00 settlement for a union electrician who injured his right shoulder when he fell through a drywall floor. Mr. Baker also negotiated the waiver of a $567,000.00 workers’ compensation lien, increasing the amount of money in his client’s pocket.
On the Edge of a 30-Foot Plunge
Mr. Baker’s client was working as a union electrician when his employer was hired by a general contractor to assist in an extensive reconstruction project for the owners of a Chicago train station. The project involved restoring both the plaza level entrance to the train station and “the plenum,” a dark, poorly lit, soot-covered area underneath the plaza level.
On November 17, 2012, Mr. Baker’s client was on the plenum level of the plaza, where he and his associates were “heat tracing” (wrapping heating tape around) newly installed pipes. The plenum floor was largely composed of cement planks, but certain sections of the floor were made up of drywall. Because it was not safe to walk on drywall, those sections of the floor were supposed to have been cordoned off with “snow fencing.”
At the time of the incident, one of the union electrician’s coworkers was walking across the plenum floor when he stepped on drywall, which had not been marked or sectioned off by snow fencing. The coworker fell through the drywall and was hanging onto the plenum floor by his arms in order to avoid falling some thirty feet onto the tracks below.
Mr. Baker’s client rushed to help his fallen coworker, only to plunge through the drywall floor and catch himself in the same way.
Right Shoulder Injury
As a result of this incident, the union electrician injured his right shoulder. Specifically, he suffered from a right anterior shoulder dislocation.
His doctors initially tried to treat his injuries with pain medication and physical therapy. When this proved ineffective, he was forced to undergo surgery.
The union electrician was ultimately able to return to work as a job estimator, though he now has permanent weight restrictions. Additionally, he was unable to work during the course of his medical treatment, the bills for which totaled more than $122,000.00.
Multiple Parties Responsible
In seeking financial compensation for his client, Mr. Baker discovered that there were multiple parties who contributed to his injuries. Among the many responsible parties involved in the plaza reconstruction project were the following:
- Owners, who had control of and responsibility for the entire train station.
- In-House Engineers, who were employed by the Owners and who regularly inspected and repaired the facilities at the train station.
- General Contractor, who was in charge of the plaza reconstruction and who hired the various subcontractors to work on the project.
- Two Engineer/Architects, who had been hired by the General Contractor to inspect the plenum area to insure that it was safe for workers to walk across.
- Insulators, who were responsible for removing and replacing the insulation covering the pipes that were to be inspected and replaced.
- Plumbers, who were responsible for inspecting and replacing any defective pipes.
“There were seven companies involved in the plaza reconstruction project, in addition to the electrical contractor who employed my client,” said Mr. Baker. “And all of them bore responsibility for his injuries.”
A Previous Incident
In conducting his research, Mr. Baker discovered that an employee working for the In-House Engineers had fallen through the drywall floor of the plenum eleven months before his client did, and in the same area where his client was injured.
The hole created by this previous incident had been patched up with drywall, even though doing so is a violation of government safety regulations because drywall is not strong enough to repair an area where workers are expected to walk. In addition to improperly repairing the hole, the Owners and/or the In-House Engineers failed to fence off or mark the area where the drywall had been damaged and later repaired.
Moreover, the Owners and the In-House Engineers did not warn the union electrician or his employers that this dangerous defect was present in the area where they had been hired to work.
Duty to Provide Safe Workplace
Additionally, the General Contractor was in control of and responsible for all construction means, methods, and procedures by the terms of its contract with the Owners. As such, it had overall job site safety responsibilities, including the duty to provide workers with safe access to their work, safe walking surfaces, and adequate covering and/or repair for unsafe areas within the plenum. This responsibility was heightened by the fact that the plenum was dimly lit and covered in soot, making it very difficult to see and avoid any potential defects and dangers.
In fact, beyond this general duty to provide a safe workplace, the General Contractor repaired certain cement planks itself, increasing its direct involvement in site safety and expanding its exposure to and awareness of any site defects.
Overall, Mr. Baker argued, the many duties of the General Contractor added up to one main duty – to prevent injury to any person present at the job site. The General Contractor failed in that duty, resulting in injuries to Mr. Baker’s client.
No Snow Fencing
Aside from the Owners, the In-House Engineers, and the General Contractor, other parties contributed to the union electrician’s injuries. The two Engineer/Architects had a duty to inspect the work site, mark any dangerous conditions, and make sure that the area was safe for workers to perform the duties of their jobs, something they failed to do.
Additionally, it was disputed as to whether the drywall area was fenced off at the time of the incident. Because all of the Defendants had access to the area where the drywall collapse occurred, Mr. Baker argued that one or more of them had removed and/or failed to replace the snow fencing prior to the incident, causing serious injury to his client.
Large Settlement for Union Electrician
Ultimately, Mr. Baker was able to make a compelling argument about the negligence of the various Defendants in this case. Collectively, the Defendants agreed to settle the matter for $1,137,500.00.
He also convinced the insurance carrier for his client’s employer to waive its workers’ compensation lien in the amount of $567,000.00, increasing the amount of the settlement available to his client.
Chicago Construction Accident Attorneys
With construction accident litigation, properly identifying and pursuing all of the responsible parties can significantly impact the amount of financial compensation that an injured party can recover. For this reason, those who have been injured in construction accidents often find that they might benefit from the help and guidance of a seasoned attorney, like the Chicago construction accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers, Illinois’ largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firm.
With more than $2 BILLION successfully recovered for our clients, GWC can provide the experience and determination to fight for the justice that you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured, please contact GWC today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. Call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives.