Articles Posted in Workers’ Rights

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, affirmed the trial court’s decision that granted the defendant manufacturer’s (Clark Equipment Co.) motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert witness and for summary judgment in the plaintiff’s strict product liability lawsuit. In this case, it was alleged that the plaintiff was injured because of the design defect in the Clark Equipment’s skid-steer loader when the loader tipped over on the plaintiff and severely damaged his leg, foot and ankle.

The plaintiff’s-controlled experts stated that the design of the loader, which provided for a 62-inch low-profile bucket, made it highly likely that the loader would tip over on plaintiff when the bucket would have been loaded in excess of 1,300-1,400 lb. capacity. The appeals court also ruled that the district court could properly find that the expert’s opinion did not meet the standard set forth in Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and Daubert, since:

(1) the expert had never used the skid-steer loader to pick up or move material and had not tested this design theory on neither the instant loader or similar loaders of equipment; (2) the evidence from others regarding operation of the loader did not support the expert’s opinion, where the individuals disclaim any personal knowledge or experience with other tipping or bouncing incidents; (3) the expert did not know the weight of the load that plaintiff was lifting at the time of the incident and thus this expert could only speculate that the size of the bucket was cause of the injuries to plaintiff; and (4) the expert chose not to account for and investigate potential alternative causes of this incident.

Continue reading

Reflection Window Co. filed in an attempt to limit its contribution liability to Power Construction Co. for an incident that injured Timothy Cooley who was an employee of Reflection Window. The incident occurred at a construction site where Power Construction was a general contractor.

Reflection Window had insisted that the judge was wrong in also ruling that it waived its lien under Section 5(b) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Reflection Window had conceded that the Cook County judge was correct in striking the affirmative defense it filed under Kotecki v. Cyclops Welding Corp., 146 Ill.2d 155 (1991).

Power Construction sued Reflection Window for contribution after Cooley sued the general contractor for negligence.

Continue reading

In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on the legality of mandatory union fees for non-union members. The opinion of the high court did not strike the fee as being a constitutional violation; instead, they commented that the precedent validating the fees “appeared questionable on several grounds.”

That case decision, Pamela Harris v. Pat Quinn, encouraged those who oppose mandatory union fees; thus it is another Illinois case that is poised to be heard and decided by the high court. This new case is Mark Janus v. American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which was filed in 2015. Gov. Bruce Rauner was originally a party plaintiff in the case, but he was dismissed. Other state workers argued that part of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Acts, which allows for the dues, violates the First Amendment because they help pay for unions’ political activity.

The plaintiffs in this case claim that nonmembers are still forced to pay 79 and 98 percent, respectively, of what full members of AFSCME and the Teamsters/Professional & Technical Employees Local Union are required to pay.

Continue reading

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised its reporting requirements when an employee dies on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. If an employee is severely injured, employers will now be required to immediately notify OSHA of the work-related fatality within 8 hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye within 24 hours. This shortened the timing that employers are required to notify OSHA of these serous injuries.

In the past, OSHA was required to report only work fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees. In other words, if only one employee died or was seriously injured at work, no report to OSHA was required.

The new reporting rule goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015 and is particularly directed at workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. This would exempt companies who employ 10 or fewer individuals regardless of the industry classification.

Continue reading

Levia Moultrie began working at Penn Aluminum in 1990. Over the next 20 years, Moultrie worked in different positions, including forklift operator, block operator, utility coiler and scrap chopper.

In September 2008, Moultrie used his seniority to take on the job of forklift operator. The collective bargaining agreement between Moultrie’s union and Penn Aluminum gave Moultrie two days to show that he could perform the job.

A little more than a week after Moultrie switched into the forklift operator job, he began experiencing performance problems. During one shipment he was tasked with handling, Moultrie incorrectly hooked up some wires causing a delay in a shipment.

Continue reading

Monika Salata was cleaning property owned by Weyerhauser Corp. on March 28, 2008 when she fell and was severely injured. She claimed that she fell because of loose floor tiles. Originally the lawsuit was filed in state court in the Circuit Court of Kane County, Ill.

Weyerhaeuser removed the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The parties attempted voluntary mediation but could not reach an agreement. At that point Salata’s attorney withdrew from representing her, and a new attorney took over in March 2012.

At a status hearing on April 4, 2012, the new lawyer stated that she needed additional time to conduct fact discovery. The court extended the discovery deadline until the end of May 2012.

Continue reading

Wisconsin has a long history of protecting private and public labor unions. In fact, before 2011, Wisconsin granted broad protections and privileges to public-sector unions. This all changed when the Wisconsin legislature passed a new budget bill known as Act 10. This act reduced state and municipal employers’ collective-bargaining obligations to non-public safety employees in the public sector.

In a lawsuit brought by two public employee unions and an individual union member, the defendants argued that the changes by the Wisconsin legislature infringed on their First Amendment petition and association rights, and that Act 10 denied the union members equal protection under the law.

The U.S. District Court granted the state’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and the unions, the plaintiffs, brought this appeal.

Continue reading

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has reversed a district court judge’s decision in a case involving an indemnification clause in a contract.

Robert Krien was an employee of Riley Construction.  Riley was the general contractor on a construction project located in Wisconsin.  Riley in turn, hired Harsco Corporation to supply the scaffolding for the construction work.  Krien was injured when he fell from the scaffolding after a plank broke beneath him.  The parties settled Krien’s injury claim for $900,000.

Before the settlement, Harsco had filed a third-party complaint against Riley seeking indemnification for any damages Harsco might pay by way of judgment or settlement.  Then the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court judge granted Riley’s motion.  Harsco took this appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Continue reading

On Oct. 12, 2004, Clinton Haywood, 47, was working as a Metra signal maintainer. He was unloading a 123-pound joint box from a rat bed sliding platform on the back of a truck when the rat bed unexpectedly slid into the truck. This caused the box to start to drop. Haywood bent and twisted his body to prevent the box from falling onto him.

Haywood was first diagnosed by Metra physicians with just a back sprain for which he received conservative medical treatment.

However, three years later, in 2007, Haywood was testing a signal when he fell over a fence that had been knocked down and was partially covered with snow. This incident exasperated his original back strain injury.Haywood was diagnosed with a herniated L5-S1 disk injury.  This injury was aggravated by the second work injury resulting in a one-level lumbar fusion in 2012.  Haywood attempted to return to his job after the surgery, but was not able to work after May 2013.

Continue reading

It is sometimes overlooked in trial practice or not given enough emphasis that the conduct of a defendant must be proved to have proximately caused the injuries or damages claimed in the pleadings. Also, expert testimony must meet the rules of scientific reliability. 

For example, Gary McCann, an engineer for more than 17 years for the defendant, Illinois Central Railroad, sued the railroad in a 4-count complaint. He claimed damages for carpal tunnel syndrome caused by the railroad’s inadequate and defective cab seats, rough track, oversized ballast and defective switches.

In this case, McCann claimed negligence under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. §51 et seq.; negligence per se; violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act, 49 U.S.C. §20701; and negligence for causing his carpal tunnel syndrome.

Continue reading