$788,000 Jury Verdict for Injured Ironworker Who Fell on Wacker Drive Reconstruction; Defries v. Walsh Construction Co.

In September 2002, John Defries, an ironworker, was employed by II in One Contractors, Inc. and was working at its Wacker Drive reconstruction project in Chicago. Walsh Construction was the general contractor for the project and was named the defendant in this case.

Defries alleged that he slipped and fell on wet rebar that was being set near the intersection of Wacker and Franklin streets.  Because the rebar had been sprayed by Walsh employees who cleaned the area while he was on break, it was alleged that the area where Defries fell was slippery.

Defries, 50, claimed that he sustained a torn rotator cuff along with a meniscus and ACL tears in his knee. Surgery was required for each injury. Defries claimed medical bills of $121,000 and more than a million dollars for lost time from his job.

Walsh argued at trial that Defries merely tripped on the rebar. This claim was supported by the incident report prepared by Defries’ foreman and based on Defries’ own statements at the time. There was nothing in the record that showed that Walsh had its employees spraying in the area the day of Defries’ fall. In addition, the defendant Walsh disputed that the rotator cuff tear was caused by the plaintiff’s fall. Defries did not report any shoulder complaints to his doctor for four months. Walsh also disputed the knee injury because Defries had been treated for knee complaints 9 months before the incident. Defries made no mention of the work accident when he saw his doctor two days after the occurrence when he complained of increasing knee pain.

The jury’s verdict of $788,297 had been reduced by 50 percent for responsibility assigned to Defries. So the verdict of $1,576,594 was reduced to $788,297 made up of the following damages:

  • $60,717 for medical expenses;
  • $200,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $527,589 for lost wages;
  • $0 for loss of normal life;
  • $0 for disfigurement.

Before the jury’s verdict, the parties entered into a high/low agreement of $400,000/$1 million, so in this case, Defries would receive the verdict of $788,297, because it falls in between the high and the low amounts.

The attorneys for Defries were John F. Winters, Jr. and Daniel E. O’Brien.  The demand to settle the case before trial was $1 million, with an offer made by the defendant Walsh of $600,000.

John Defries v. Walsh Construction Co., 09 L 12133 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction accidents for individuals and families for more than 37 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including River Grove, Franklin Park, Schiller Park, Bensenville, Barrington, Clarendon Hills, Chicago (Englewood), Chicago (Humboldt Park), Maywood, Evergreen Park and Blue Island, Ill.

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