Articles Posted in Work Injuries

Kenneth Smith was a journeyman union carpenter working at a construction site at a new XSport Fitness in Libertyville, Ill., in 2006. The defendant in this lawsuit was RPM, which was a cabinetry contractor involved in the installation of cabinets in the newly constructed building. Smith was employed by Lankford Construction Co., which was one of the subcontractors on this job.

On July 5, 2006, 36-year-old Smith assisted a truck driver in unloading the cabinets from a delivery truck at the job site.

In the process of unloading the cabinets, the truck driver dropped his end of a crescent-shaped cabinet weighing over 300 pounds, which caused Smith to wrench his back while trying to stabilize the cabinet and protect it from being gouged by the wall of the truck.

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This case was brought as a declaratory judgment action filed by the plaintiff, Pekin Insurance Co., seeking a declaration that it owed the defendant Lexington Station LLC no duty to defend it in a personal injury lawsuit filed by Marcos Botello against Lexington.

Pekin had issued a commercial general liability (CGL) policy to ACC Inc. The defendant, Marcos Botello, was injured during the effective policy period while working as an employee of ACC on a development project owned by Lexington. Botello filed a personal injury lawsuit against Lexington. Lexington in turn tendered the defense of the case to Pekin, which refused to tender and then filed this declaratory judgment action. Pekin argued that it had no duty to defend Lexington as an additional insured under the policy issued to ACC.

Westfield Insurance Co., as Lexington’s own CGL insurer, intervened in the declaratory action and argued, along with Lexington, that Pekin did owe a duty to defendant. The circuit court denied Pekin’s motion for summary judgment and granted Lexington and Westfield’s cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that Pekin had a duty to defend Lexington. Pekin appealed.  It argued that the court’s entry of judgment in favor of Lexington and Westfield was in error because (1) Botello’s complaint did not contain allegations that created a potential for a claim of vicarious liability against Lexington; and (2) the circuit court improperly considered a third-party complaint in coming to its conclusion.

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Nathaniel Cooper, 24, was working in the packing area of a United Parcel Services (UPS) facility when he suffered heat exhaustion that led to his fatal cardiac event. He is survived by his fiancé and a minor child.

His fiancé, on behalf of the couple’s child, sued UPS claiming it was negligent in that it directed Cooper to work in unsafe conditions despite knowing that he had cardiac problems.

The lawsuit also claimed that UPS was grossly negligent for choosing not to install an adequate ventilation system, establish mandatory rest schedules and monitor workers for heat stress. Apparently the UPS facility where Cooper was working was an enclosed area that held heat at high temperatures. Continue reading

Nardo Ovando was a 44-year-old painter employed by Painters USA Inc. and was hired for a painting job at the defendant Vita Food Products Inc. The job was located at 2222 W. Lake St. in Chicago.  Ovando was standing on a ladder and reaching overhead while painting a ceiling at the Vita Food facility on June 30, 2011 when one of the legs of the ladder dropped into a floor drain opening that caused him to fall off the ladder.

On falling, Ovando’s head struck the floor resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury that required multiple brain surgeries.

Ovando reportedly has exhibited no measurable brain activity since the occurrence and will require care in a skilled nursing facility for the remainder of his life. His past medical expenses totaled $1,204,762 with his future medical expenses estimated at $7,590,000.

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Dean Wilcox fell 50 feet through an open catwalk hatch onto a concrete floor. Having sustained severe injuries, he sued the on-site safety planner, Steven Basehore, for negligent planning causing the fall; Wilcox also named the safety planner’s employer, Bartlett Services Inc., and an intermediary company, ELR Consulting Inc. (ELR), in respondeat superior. ELR was one of the many contractors involved in the cleanup project.

The work being done at the  site was to dismantle a nuclear weaponry facility that measured more than 586 square miles.

Before trial, the court granted ELR judgment as a matter of law. At trial, the court instructed the jury on the borrowed servant doctrine, an extension of respondeat superior. Wilcox appealed both decisions. The Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed.

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An Illinois jury has entered a $7.5 million verdict against a railroad company for the injuries to a worker exposed to benzene. The worker had been employed by two different railroad companies over 30 years. His job included loading and unloading creosote-soaked railroad ties, which caused him to be covered in wet creosote. Creosote contains benzene, which is a known carcinogen.  This worker was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which later progressed into acute myeloid leukemia (ACL). This occurred in 2008.

The worker filed his lawsuit in 2010 claiming that he developed leukemia (ACL) as a result of his long-term exposure to the benzene and other chemicals while working for the predecessor railroad company.

At trial, it was heard that the predecessor railroad knew of the dangers of benzene exposure as early as the mid-1980s. At that time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a memo advising the company that it needed to comply with certain safety regulations, including providing employees with adequate protective equipment such as boots, gloves, respirators and goggles. The worker in this case argued that the railroad company did not comply with these regulations.

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Theodore Sussan was working as a member of a crew maintaining park trails. He was on supervised probation and community service for a conviction on drug charges. The county had protective equipment, including safety glasses for crews to use on the job.  Sussan and the other crew members worked under the supervision of a county employee.

The county employee instructed Sussan, who was 27 at the time, to grab a rake.  They were working on the county park trails. When Sussan asked if he needed anything else, his supervisor told him no, explaining that Sussan would only be raking debris. Another crew member was using a hedge trimmer to cut brush hanging above the trail.  Sussan and other crew members followed behind, raking the fallen limbs and debris. Additional equipment, which would have included eye protection or safety glasses, was not brought along.

Several hours into this project, the crew found a large branch that protruded from bushes into a walking path. The supervisor told the crew it had to be removed and stated that a chainsaw would be needed to remove the branch. The supervisor told Sussan to pull it out and when that failed he tried to break it with his bare hands. When Sussan attempted to do that, the bark separated and the branch swung upward and punctured his right eye with a splintered stick.

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Reginald Lindsey was employed as a forklift operator by Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. and was working at its facility in southwest suburban McCook, Ill. Central Blacktop Co. was contracted to do road repair work and resurfacing there.

On Oct. 19, 2010, Lindsey was driving an older model forklift over a permanent portion of paved road. Lindsey testified that the road north of the warehouse was “broken” and “deteriorated” making it difficult to operate the forklift. Lindsey’s lawsuit claimed that he followed a marked path, turned right and hit some pavement in disrepair causing his forklift to jolt suddenly. Lindsey stated that he heard a “pop” in his neck and suffered a spinal injury.

He filed a lawsuit against Central Blacktop claiming it was negligent in leaving broken concrete in his path and in choosing not to issue a warning on the problem area or to repair the fault. Lindsey alleged Central Blacktop was at fault and owed him a duty of care.

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On Oct. 16, 2007, union sprinkler fitter Frank Barnai was working at a Wal-Mart Store construction site in Joliet, Ill. He tripped over an electrical conduit protruding 6-12 inches from a concrete floor. Barnai was carrying a sprinkler pipe over his shoulder at the time of his fall. Barnai, 54, sustained a re-injury to his back. He had previously undergone lumbar fusion surgery at L4-5. As a result of this incident, Barnai underwent multiple revisions of the prior fusion and eventually required a multi-level spinal fusion from T-9 to S-1. Barnai is unable to return to work and is mostly confined to a wheelchair.

Barnai sued Wal-Mart, the owner, the general contractor, International Contractors Inc. and the company that installed the conduit, Nuline Technologies, for choosing not to inspect the work area for tripping hazards, failing to properly identify the tripping hazard, choosing not to mark the protruding conduit as a hazard and failing to ensure workers were not exposed to hazardous conditions.

The defendants contended that Barnai was contributorily negligent for not watching where he was walking and argued that he was aware of the dangerous conditions because he had walked past the area hundreds of times before he fell.

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On Nov. 12, 2004, 50-year-old truck driver Billy Coleman, who was employed by Hines Lumber, drove to a construction site in Des Plaines, Ill. He was there to deliver construction materials from his flatbed truck. The defendant, Premier Construction, was the general contractor for the project.

Coleman was standing on his flatbed when a forklift driver employed by Premier hit the truck and knocked Coleman off of the flatbed injuring him. He suffered a severe hip fracture, which required two surgeries including a total hip replacement.

Even with extensive rehabilitation efforts, Coleman is permanently disabled and unable to return to work. In the future he will need a second hip replacement.

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