GWC Obtains Settlement Worth Over $2.7 Million for Union Sheet Metal Worker

Union Sheet Metal Worker
Michael D. Fisher

GWC Partner Michael D. Fisher has obtained a settlement worth more than $2.7 million for a union sheet metal worker and his wife for serious injuries he sustained at an unsafe construction site.

Client Ordered to Carry 75 Pounds Across Muddy Path

Mr. Fisher’s client had been a union sheet metal worker and proud member of Local 73 since 2006. On September 2, 2014, the client, who was then 32 years old, was working at a large construction site for a nursing home facility in Northbrook, IL. The project’s general contractor had hired his employer, an HVAC contractor, to assist in the project. On that date, the general contractor ordered the client to take delivery of sheet metal connections weighing 75 pounds from the back of a delivery box truck to a skid-lull some 30 feet away.

The south exterior haul road, over which the client was directed to carry the heavy load, was wet and muddy at that time. While transporting the sheet metal connections to the skid-lull, he was caused to slip in the rutted mud, which made him twist violently as he tried to keep from falling.

Union Sheet Metal Worker Sustained Severe Lower Back Injuries

As a result of this incident, the union sheet metal worker suffered severe lower back injuries, including symptomatic spondylolisthesis and bilateral spondylosis with nerve impingement radiating into both legs. To treat his injuries, the client underwent multiple surgical procedures. In addition to lumbar epidural steroidal injections on two separate dates, he had an L5-S1 interbody and posterolateral fusion surgery the following year.

When this surgery failed, he was forced to undergo two additional surgical revisions with reinsertion of instrumentation. In addition to his surgeries, the client has gone through extensive physical and rehabilitative therapy.

Economic and Personal Hardship

As a result of his injuries and treatment, Mr. Fisher’s client was unable to return to work for more than two years. Even after reaching maximum medical improvement, the client continues to suffer from permanent work restrictions. He can no longer climb ladders or crawl, and he is only occasionally allowed to bend squat, kneel, climb stairs, or lift weights up to 10 to 15 pounds. These restrictions prevented the client from performing the professional duties of a sheet metal worker, so he was forced to switch careers and become an estimator at a lower rate of pay.

The loss of his trade has inflicted serious economic hardship on the client and his family – and serious personal hardship as well.

“All his life, my client has wanted to work as a construction tradesman,” said Mr. Fisher. “That has been taken from him.”

Outside of the workplace, his ongoing injuries have proven difficult for the client, both as a father of three and as a husband. He can no longer lift his young daughter or play with his other children for fear of hurting his back. He is also largely unable to perform chores typically associated with “the man of the house,” such as shoveling snow, cleaning gutters, and moving furniture, a source of personal shame to him.

Before the incident, the client was practically inseparable from his wife, his high school sweetheart. Now his injuries force her to do most of the things they used to enjoy alone. All of these changes have placed a significant strain on the client’s marriage and home life.

GWC Shows Defendant Neglected Jobsite Safety

In seeking fair compensation for the client and his family, Mr. Fisher argued that the Defendant, the general contractor in charge of the project, was solely responsible for the means, methods, techniques, sequences, and procedures for construction.

“Perhaps most significantly for my client,” said Mr. Fisher, “the Defendant was also fully and solely responsible for jobsite safety.”

Based upon its contract with the nursing home developer, as well as regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Defendant was required to take reasonable precautions for the safety of any employees on the project. One part of its contract specifically obligated the Defendant to “de-water” the site and prevent surface and ground water from accumulating or “ponding,” since such ponding could result in dangerous ground softening. In cases where ponding had occurred and the surfaces had become eroded or rutted, the Defendant was required to repair and reestablish the grade of the surfaces.

Drawing upon witness interviews during depositions and other documents obtained through discovery, Mr. Fisher was able to establish that the Defendant knew that the south exterior haul road had a persistent ponding problem. Despite this knowledge, the Defendant failed to take appropriate actions to de-water the south exterior haul road. Instead, it continued to order Mr. Fisher’s client and other workers to take deliveries at the site’s ponded south exterior, even though the site’s north exterior had a hard access road and was not wet and muddy. As a result of the Defendant’s negligence, the union sheet metal worker was caused to slip in the mud and injure his lower back.

“Because the Defendant knew there was a serious safety risk at the jobsite and failed to remedy it,” Mr. Fisher explained, “it was responsible for my client’s injuries.”

Settlement Worth More than $2.7 Million

Based on Mr. Fisher’s arguments, the Defendant agreed to settle the sheet metal worker’s case for $1,800,000.00. By ably demonstrating how this incident also impacted the client’s home life, Mr. Fisher was able to obtain an additional $100,000.00 for the client’s wife over her Loss of Consortium (deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to the injuries inflicted by the negligent party).

Mr. Fisher also convinced his client’s employer’s insurance carrier to waive $817,949.00 of its workers’ compensation lien on the case. Obtaining this waiver brought the client and his wife a net gain of $2,717,949.00.

Illinois Construction Accident Lawyers

Construction accidents present some of the greatest challenges in personal injury litigation. They demand comprehensive knowledge not only of the applicable law but also of the industry and its operations.

In this respect, you can be assured of quality representation when you contact the Illinois construction accident lawyers at GWC Injury Lawyers. In fact, GWC is often called the construction injury law firm, with trades unions and organizations often turning to us first whenever a union sheet metal worker or other type of member is injured.

With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and more than forty years in the business, GWC has the experience, the determination, and the proven record of success you need to help you get the justice you deserve.

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully injured, please contact GWC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our lawyers. Call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.