$2 Million Cook County Jury Verdict for Disc-Injured Construction Worker at Chicago Loop Train Station Project

On April 27, 2009, Daniel Fleck, a union sprinkler fitter employed by Global Fire Protection, was working at the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago. This work occurred during the MetraMarket construction project that was under way on the lower level. Fleck was 39 years old at the time. The construction project was headed by general contractor defendant, O’Neil Construction Co. The Ogilvie Transportation Center is located at 118 N. Canal Street in Chicago.

Fleck contended that he injured his lower back while he attempted to lift and install a 110-pound dry pipe valve at the construction site. While attempting this lift, Fleck was caused to re-herniate his lumbar disc, which required spinal surgery in 2010. Fleck was unable to return to work as a sprinkler fitter and is currently unemployed.

Fleck maintained that the customary industry practice for hoisting the sprinkler valve was to be done from an anchor in the ceiling, but O’Neil Construction prohibited Fleck from using a hoisting device to install the valve, which forced him to lift the heavy valve by hand.

The project owner had enacted a policy banning workers from drilling into the ceiling to install a hoist because other subcontractors had previously sprayed insulation and fire-proofing onto the ceilings throughout the project.

Fleck contended that O’Neil Construction chose not to provide a safe workplace and was careless in prohibiting Fleck from using a safe and suitable hoisting device to install the valve. The defendant O’Neil contended that it did not control the means and methods by which Fleck’s employer, Global Fire Protection, did the work. O’Neil was merely enforcing the project owner’s policy prohibiting drilling into the ceiling, and any negligent conduct was on the part of the plaintiff and/or his employer, not O’Neil.

The defendant further argued that Fleck’s disc injury and surgery were due to his pre-existing condition dating back to a lumbar surgery in 1994 and that Fleck’s current work restrictions would allow him to return to work at his former occupation as a union painter.

The jury verdict of $2,019,084 was reduced by 15%, which was attributable to the jury’s assignment of contributory negligence to Fleck. The jury’s assessment of damages was made up of the following:

• $149,085 for medical expenses;
• $1,062,500 for loss of wages and benefits;
• $722,500 for pain and suffering; and
• $85,000 for loss of normal life.

In filling out the jury verdict form, the jury apportioned liability at 35% against the defendant O’Neil Construction, 50% against the third-party defendant, the employer Global Fire Protection and as mentioned above, 15% was assigned to Mr. Fleck for his contribution to his own injury.

The attorney representing Daniel Fleck was Timothy E. Takash. The demand to settle the case before trial was $1,500,000. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $3,993,614. The only offer made to settle the case before trial was $200,000. Post-trial motions are pending.

Daniel Fleck v. W.E. O’Neil Construction Co. v. Global Fire Protection, 10 L 12641 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site worker injuries, catastrophic injury cases, automobile accident cases and truck accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Wood Dale, Waukegan, Winnetka, Tinley Park, Evanston, River Grove, Wheaton, Hinsdale, Chicago (Irving Park, Wicker Park, Bridgeport, Canaryville), Lyons, Lisle, Orland Park, Vernon Hills, Flossmoor, Lansing, Morton Grove and Naperville, Ill.

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