Injured Worker’s Lawsuit Against Contractor on the Property Where the Incident Occurred Has No Duty to the Worker if Not Foreseeable

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.

Central, on the other hand, maintained it owed no duty of care to Lindsey. Central claimed it had a delineated “work area” where it was assigned and permitted to work and that Lindsey’s injury took place outside of the area designated as Central’s work zone.

To support Central’s argument, it claimed that Electro-Motive Diesel had exclusive control of the section of roadway where Lindsey was injured. Further, Central noted that Electro-Motive had repeatedly been informed of the bad condition of the roadway and the lack of shocks or pneumatic tires on the forklift that Lindsey was using.

Central engaged an expert witness who testified as to Central’s scope of control over the worksite. The expert witness testified that Central could not have caused cracking of the concrete outside of its work zone. Further, in accordance with the contract with Electro-Motive, Central Blacktop was not permitted to fix issues outside of its designated work zone, so it could not have remedied the cause of Lindsey’s claimed accident.

Lastly, Central Blacktop noted that Lindsey had been unable to specify what, in the ground, had caused his injuries. No broken section of concrete was seen at the time or identified at a later point. Central moved for summary judgment arguing that it owed no duty of care to Lindsey which the court granted.

Lindsey appealed. Lindsey’s counsel argued that Central owed him a duty of care under the terms of the contract and under Section 343 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The appeals panel disagreed.

The appellate court stated that for Central to owe a duty to Lindsey, his injury must have been foreseeable to Central. The appellate court noted that Lindsey had no evidence showing that there was “a crack in the preexisting roadway, or even that this alleged crack occurred within Central’s work area . . . such that Central should have known, or should have reasonably foreseen . . . that an injury to [Lindsey] would occur.”

Lindsey brought to the attention of the court the requirement of the contract that Central provide safety equipment, including, concrete lane barriers, but the appellate court noted that this only applied to the area in which Central was assigned to do its work.

Lindsey’s argument that Central owed him a duty of care under the Restatement (Second) of Torts as a “possessor of land” likewise was disregarded because the appellate court found that Central did not possess the land where the injury occurred, as it was neither assigned nor committed to work on it. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial judge’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant disposing of the case.

Reginald Lindsey v. Central Blacktop Co., Inc., 2015 IL App (1st) 141515-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site accident cases, work injury cases, product liability actions, pharmaceutical defect cases and nursing home negligence cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 38 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Bedford Park, Elmhurst, Bensenville, Des Plaines, Chicago (Old Town Triangle, Chinatown, Museum Campus, McKinley Park, The Loop, Loyola Park, Lincoln Park, Austin, Avondale, Back of the Yards), Bensenville, Western Springs, St. Charles, Aurora and Niles, Ill.

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