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Volusia County

The plaintiff, a 25-year-old carpenter at the time of injury, filed this action against the defendant crane company and the owner/general contractor of a house under construction. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant crane company supplied a defective crane truss hook which allowed a heavy housing truss to fall from the crane and strike the plaintiff. The claim against the defendant owner/general contractor was based on a vicarious liability theory. The owner/general contractor rented the crane used on the project and the plaintiff claimed that it furnished a defective product which was used in an inherently dangerous activity. The plaintiff sustained a cervical fracture resulting in low quadriplegia as a result of the accident. The defendants argued that the crane hook was not defectively designed and that the accident was caused by the negligence of the plaintiff and of the crane operator who was working for the plaintiff’s employer at the time of the accident.

The plaintiff was an employee of a carpentry contractor working on the construction of a house. The defendant Integrity Homes was the owner acting as a general contractor on the project.

Integrity Homes rented a crane and an operator from the defendant Corbett Cranes Services for use by the carpentry contractor in lifting and placing roof trusses. The plaintiff was on top of a wall preparing the wall plate for the next truss. The crane operator used a nearby tree to rotate the truss into position. As he did so, the truss came out of the truss hook and fell, striking the plaintiff across the back of the neck.

The plaintiff’s crane operation and rigging experts testified that the crane hook being used at the time was defective and dangerous for the use to which it was applied. The hook in question was lost or misplaced before it could be inspected by the plaintiff’s experts. Only photographs were available at the time of trial. The hook appeared to be a piece of rounded metal which had been soldered into a modified U-shape. The origins of the hook or by whom it was fabricated were unknown. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants should have provided a truss hook that would have secured this load and by its design, prevent the load from coming out of the hook.

The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the plaintiff sustained a C6-C7 fracture dislocation with resulting low quadriplegia as a result of the accident. The plaintiff has some use of his arms, but very limited use of his hands, according to evidence offered. He is paralyzed below the level of his arms.

The plaintiff presented a videotape showing the plaintiff’s rehabilitation program. The jury also viewed a video of the plaintiff scuba diving subsequent to the accident as part of his rehabilitative program.

The defendant argued that the truss hook was not defective and p 7 3 that the foreman of the carpentry crew was negligent in using a truss hook to lift the asymmetric, unbalanced truss. The foreman should have used one of the other rigging devices available from the crane company, according to defense arguments. The defendant also contended that, if the plaintiff had been paying attention, he could have avoided being struck with the truss.

The jury found the defendant Corbett Cranes 50% at fault. It found the plaintiff 4% comparatively negligent and found the employer of the carpentry crew (plaintiff’s employer) 46% negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ which was reduced accordingly. The verdict included economic damages of $________. Final judgment totaled $________. The plaintiff had settled with the manufacturer/seller of the truss prior to trial for $________.

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