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Philadelphia County

This action arose from a construction site accident which occurred when the plaintiff fell some 15 feet from a steel beam he was placing in a building under construction. The plaintiff claimed the accident resulted from negligent and unsafe practices at the worksite as well as OSHA and AISC (American Institute for Steel Construction) violations. The defendants included the steel erector which was responsible for steel erection at the site, the company which provided the crane and crane operator, the general contractor and the owner of the property. The plaintiff’s employer, a steel fabrication subcontractor, was also named as a defendant but was dismissed from the case prior to trial. The defendants each denied responsibility for the accident and maintained that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by his own negligence in getting on top of the beam while it was still attached to the crane.

The plaintiff was a 35-year-old man at the time of the accident on September 29, ________. He was a union iron worker (local ________) employed by a steel fabricator on the erection of a steel building frame in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia.

The plaintiff was in the process of connecting a ________-pound, 20- foot-long steel beam between two columns. The plaintiff was standing on a brick wall approximately 15-feet high when he signaled the crane operator to bring the beam over. The plaintiff’s partner connected one side of the beam, but the beam did not go in plum on the plaintiff’s side. Instead, the beam came down at an angle touching the column, meaning that either the columns were too close together or the beam was too long.

The beam was brought down and the defendant steel erector instructed the crane operator to lift the column on the plaintiff’s side so that four holes under the column could be elongated with a torch in the hopes of resolving the problem. However, the beam still did not fit and again became lodged against the column on the plaintiff’s side.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant steel erector made the decision to attempt to wedge or force the beam into place. The beam was still connected to the crane cable as the plaintiff climbed on it and straddled it in an attempted to force it into the proper position.

A wrench was unsuccessful in moving the high end of the beam into place, so the plaintiff was given a 12-pound sledge hammer to use in banging the beam. As the plaintiff struck the beam, the crane operator was to give only one or two inches of slack to allow downward movement of the beam. The plaintiff struck the beam once with the sledge hammer and it moved one or two inches into place. He hit it a second time and it moved another inch or two. The plaintiff struck the beam several more times, but it did not move any farther.

The plaintiff claimed that he raised the sledge hammer to hit the beam again when his side of the beam suddenly dropped some 18 inches, causing him to fall from the beam and strike the ground approximately 15 feet below.

The plaintiff’s construction expert reported that the defendant steel erector should have stopped the job when it became obvious that the beam did not fit property. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have called an engineer or fabricator to correct the problem.

The plaintiff’s crane operation expert opined that the beam was under the control of the crane operator. This expert contended that the crane operator should not have allowed anyone to get on top of the beam while it was still attached to the crane cable. The plaintiff’s expert stated that this was an inherently unsafe action and the crane operator should not have lent his crane to such a process. Further, the operator allowed too much slack, which permitted the beam to suddenly drop approximately 18 inches, according to the plaintiff’s expert.

The plaintiff landed on his shoulder and neck after the fall. His physicians diagnosed brachial plexopathy of the left shoulder and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the accident. The plaintiff’s neurologist testified that the brachial plexopathy is a chronic and permanent nerve injury which prevents the plaintiff from lifting his left arm and causes involuntary hand motion and sharp radiating pain from his left shoulder to his hand.

The plaintiff’s pain management expert indicated that the plaintiff continues to suffer chronic pain and is required to take narcotic pain killers. The plaintiff claimed a total disability from employment. His economist estimated the plaintiff’s future wage loss at approximately $1.7 million. The plaintiff’s life care expert reported that the plaintiff will require special equipment, home nursing care, medications, treatment and therapy at a cost of approximately $3 million.

Each of the defendants denied responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries. The defense argued that the plaintiff caused the accident by climbing on a steel beam which was still hooked to the crane cable and in not using a safety line. The defendants also argued that the plaintiff could be retrained to return to work in a sedentary position and strenuously disputed the cost of his future medical care.

The case was settled prior to trial for a total of $________. The defendant steel erector paid $________ of the settlement. The crane company paid $________ and the general contractor/property owner paid $________.

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