GWC Partner Michael D. Fisher has obtained a settlement worth nearly $750,000.00 for a union ironworker who sustained serious injuries at a Chicago construction site without safe means of access.
Union Ironworker Falls When “Step Up” Teeters
At the time of the incident, Mr. Fisher’s client was a 46-year-old ironworker and a proud member of Architectural and Ornamental Ironworkers Union, Local 63 since 1998. He was working on the Lake Front Trail – Navy Pier Flyover Project, which involved the construction of an elevated path for pedestrians and cyclists from the Chicago River Bridge to Jane Addams Memorial Park.
On July 6, 2016, the client was inspecting his work area on the Navy Pier Flyover Ramp to see if it was sufficiently dry after an extended rain to begin welding steel posts and rail. Upon completion of this inspection, he attempted to return to a trailer to speak with his foreman. To leave his work area, the client had to climb over a short, concrete wall, approximately 33 inches in height. Weeks prior to this date, a pallet/skid over was placed pieces of scrap lumber to be used as a “step up” to aid in climbing over this wall.
The client walked onto the skid with both feet. Then, as he stepped up to the wall, the skid teetered, catching his right foot between the skid and the wall. He lost his balance and was caused to fall forward over the top of the wall, landing on his outstretched hands, left shoulder, and knees.
Shoulder and Knee Injuries
As a result of this incident, GWC’s client sustained a torn rotator cuff and labrum of the left shoulder and a medial meniscus tear of the right knee, temporarily limiting his ability to lift heavy objects and to climb, kneel, or crouch for long periods of times, all essential duties of his job. He required an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and an arthroscopic knee cartilage repair.
Following his surgeries, the client underwent a short stint of rehabilitative physical therapy in order to return to his active lifestyle. Fortunately, he was able to go back to work, full duty, approximately eight months after the occurrence.
GWC Shows Defendant Failed to Provide Safe Means of Access
In seeking fair compensation for the firm’s client, Mr. Fisher argued that the Defendant – the general contractor in charge of the project – had failed to provide the client with a safe means of access to his work area. By doing so, the Defendant violated both its contractual agreements and its obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety laws.
“As part of its contract with the City of Chicago, the Defendant was responsible for the means, methods, techniques, sequences, and procedures used in performing the work,” said Mr. Fisher. “It was also solely responsible for ensuring job safety, which included providing a safe means of access to all areas where work was being provided.”
The Defendant was not only obligated to provide safe access to worksites because of its contract with the City; it was also required to do so under federal law. At the time of the incident, an OSHA regulation mandated that a stairway, ramp, or ladder be provided at all personal points of access where there is a break in elevation of 19 inches or more.
Through witness interviews, depositions, and documents obtained through discovery, Mr. Fisher was able to establish that the “step up” over the short wall was the chief means of accessing the client’s work area. This “step up” was commonly used by both employees of the general contractor and of the ironworker’s direct employer, despite the fact that it was so unstable that, immediately following the incident that injured the client, the Defendant’s project engineer prepared a report in which he called for the “(1) removal of wood pallets and (2) installation of a temporary job site stairs/ladder.” The Defendant’s superintendent and project manager admitted to Mr. Fisher under oath that the erection and use of a temporary ladder over the short wall would have been a much safer means of access to and from the site.
“By allowing an unstable ‘step up’ to exist on a work area under its control instead of providing a safe means of access to this area, the Defendant negligently failed to uphold its contractual and legal duties,” said Mr. Fisher. “This negligence makes the Defendant responsible for my client’s injuries.”
Based upon Mr. Fisher’s arguments, the Defendant agreed to settle the case prior to trial for $625,000.00. Additionally, he convinced the client’s employer’s insurance carrier to waive $123,510.00 of its workers’ compensation lien on the case – a net gain of $748,510.00.
Chicago Construction Accident Lawyers Fighting for You
Construction accidents are at the heart of some of the most challenging cases in personal injury litigation. They demand comprehensive knowledge not only of the applicable law but also of the industry and its operations.
If you find yourself suffering from serious injuries sustained in a construction accident, consider doing what so many others have done before you and contact the construction accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
In more than four decades in practice, GWC has proudly represented members of all the major building trades unions, so much so that we have often been called “the construction accident law firm.” These unions frequently turn to our Chicago construction accident lawyers first whenever one of their members is injured because they know they get results. And with over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients, we think these results speak for themselves.
GWC would also like to personally thank all the healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store and pharmacy employees, and delivery drivers who are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19. We continue to stand with you.