Scaffold Corner Built With Complete Negligence

The lawsuit on behalf of the family of David O’Donnell, Local 130 technical engineer who suffered fatal injuries in the June 9th fall at the University of Chicago Hospital Cancer Pavilion project, has been filed today, June 20th, 2024. David O’Donnell’s mother was appointed Administrator of his estate in a probate order on June 18th, 2024. The facts and allegations closely mirror those in the Spyrka complaint which was filed last week.

The complaints are against the general contractor, Turner Construction Company, and Adjustable Forms Concrete company who was responsible for erecting a massive concrete form pouring system with an attached trailing scaffold situated 30+ feet below the form system for the Ironworkers and technical engineers to work from. The manner in which the scaffold was constructed was incredibly deficient in many respects.

Pursuant to engineering design, this scaffold was to withstand wind forces up to 80 MPH, yet separated at a critical corner when faced with only a 44 MPH gust of wind according to the anemometer on a tower crane 15-feet away.

The Southwest corner that separated causing these catastrophes was NOT properly connected to be deemed a safe support for workers or material. The structure of the west-sided scaffold did not have beams underneath the scaffold flooring that extended from the west scaffold to the south scaffold, thus creating a significant gap in structural support. This 3-foot gap between the two scaffolds was simply bridged with a 4-foot piece of plywood connected with 3 nails into the west scaffold and 3 into the south scaffold. The point of failure was exactly at that bridge. The gust of wild caused the scaffolds to violently shake, thereby allowing the 2 scaffolds to separate precisely at the point where the piece of plywood was nailed, causing that plywood bridge to simply fall to the ground and disappear. Unfortunately, this bridge is exactly where Jeff Spyrka was standing and where David O’Donnell fell onto during the event. Both men then fell 140′ when a large opening instantly was created literally under their feet.

Additionally, the scaffold was not designed or constructed to have an overlapping interlock at the corner. This is created when one scaffold extends and sits on top of the other with a substantial piece of blocking bolted so as to connect both scaffolds together, thus preventing separation.

Finally, the two scaffolds should have been winched/locked together with cabling around the vertical columns above and below the floor deck area as a further means of ensuring that the scaffolds do not separate under any conditions. Instead, they merely used a piece of plywood and 6 nails. “Essentially, they built the corner of this scaffold as if building a tree fort in one’s back yard rather than this massive structure to support multiple men and heavy equipment in reasonably foreseeable high winds. Utilization of a couple hundred dollars of competent planning and material would have prevented this senseless tragedy from ever occurring. The level of fault here is far beyond being negligent. It was a complete and total disregard for the health and safety of the workers on this scaffold and we intend to prove it,” said partner, Louis A. Cairo.

GWC anticipates adding additional parties to the lawsuits once the discovery process begins to learn the identities of the engineering companies, supply/leasing companies and any others involved in the building this deadly scaffold system.

GWC has created an animation depicting the failures inherent in this scaffold and the required remedial items referenced above that should have been implemented in order to build this scaffold so that it would have been safe and compliant.

GWC will continue to report on the findings of this case and has a press conference today, June 20th at 1pm.