Articles Posted in Construction Site Accidents

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craneIn a recent Texas construction case, the court considered injuries arising from the collapse of a crane on a commercial construction site. The issue the appellate court examined was whether the plaintiff was prevented from obtaining damages under common law, due to the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

The case arose when the superintendent for the general contractor on a big construction project was injured in connection with the installation of pilings. To install pilings, the crew drilled a hole in the earth and then pumped grout into the hole. A steel rebar cage was dropped into the grout, which hardened around the cage to form a piling. Heavy machinery is used to build the piling. One of the subcontractors had adopted several policies to make sure the pilings were finished safely.

After a piling was completed, the crew had several cubic yards of grout left over, but the grout was insufficient to fully complete another hole. The superintendent of the subcontractor ordered the crew to start another piling. The foreman opposed this plan but agreed to follow it anyway. The superintendent of the subcontractor left, and grout was pumped into a new hole on the assumption that another shipment of grout would be arriving soon. That shipment was delayed, and the grout started to harden. When the grout finally arrived and was mixed into the old grout, the pressure under the old grout built up and caused the augur to shoot up. The cable backlashed, and the augur got stuck.

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power-3-1244917-e1489526367891A recent Texas personal injury lawsuit arose when a worker who was helping a subcontractor lay a cement parking lot around a sales office was electrocuted. The property owner, a supply company, had hired a general contractor and assigned one of its employees to coordinate with the subcontractor and monitor what was happening.

The worker was working at night and trying to level freshly poured concrete with a bull float. The bull float’s handle was 16 inches long. As the worker pulled the float back toward himself, it touched an electrical line that was over or next to the lot where the work was being completed. Later in a deposition, the worker testified he knew about the line’s presence because he’d seen it before.

He also testified that people from the supply company were not only present at the scene but also told him and his coworkers what to do. He assumed that they were from the supply company based on coworker comments and admitted he didn’t know who they were. He admitted that nobody told him to use the float, but said that the people told him to pour the cement.

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warehouseUnder Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 33.001-33.017, a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit in Texas can designate anyone who is alleged to have caused or contributed to injuries as a responsible third party.

In Re Bustamante considered whether a trial court had appropriately denied a motion for leave to designate responsible third parties. The case arose when a man in the course and scope of his employment was hurt at his workplace, the Cleo Convenience Center, when Irasma Estrada Riojas drove a vehicle into him, pinning him to a wall.

A day before the statute of limitations period ended, the man and his wife sued several defendants, including Cleo Bustamante, who owned the company that employed him. They did not sue Riojas or the employer. The employer had provided workers’ compensation, while Riojas had settled.

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SUVIn Blevins v. Pepper-Lawson Construction, the plaintiff appealed after a jury awarded him $170,850 for injuries suffered when he hit a construction vehicle driven by an employee of a masonry company.

The case arose one evening when the plaintiff was driving near a high school under renovation. A subcontractor of Pepper-Lawson Construction was doing some masonry. The plaintiff tried to pass a car but instead hit the mason’s construction vehicle. He was hurt and sued Pepper-Lawson, the mason, and the driver of the construction vehicle.

At trial, he argued that the construction vehicle should not be driven on a public road without a road kit (headlights and tail lights), and there was a failure to warn. A witness testified at trial that she was driving in the same area, which was well lit. A motorcycle sped around her in the right lane, followed by the plaintiff’s truck, which was also speeding. She believed they were racing and stopped her car because she saw that the plaintiff was driving as if he didn’t see the construction vehicle and was going to hit it.

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stepsIn Kalinchuk v. JP Sanchez Construction Co., a Texas plaintiff appealed summary judgment in favor of the defendant, a construction company. The case arose when a city hired a construction company to renovate one of its baseball fields. The city asked the construction company to move bleachers during the renovation, and two of the company’s employers did so with a forklift.

The plaintiff was a welder hired by the city who was asked to break the bleachers into smaller sections. While he was working, the bleachers fell on his back, causing an injury. He sued the construction company, alleging they were negligent and grossly negligent for failing to take sufficient precautions to make sure he was safe when moving the bleachers.

The construction company moved for summary judgment. It argued that it didn’t owe a duty to the plaintiff as a matter of law because it didn’t employ or exercise control over the plaintiff. It also argued that the plaintiff had only produced a scintilla of evidence to show there was a duty, a breach of duty, and causation. The plaintiff’s response included deposition testimony from the plaintiff, construction company employees, and his supervisor. The trial court granted summary judgment nonetheless, although it didn’t state the reason for its decision.

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construction zoneIn Brown v. RK Hall Construction, Ltd., a 21-year-old plaintiff drank alcohol at a friend’s house and then tried to drive home shortly after midnight. The plaintiff drove into a construction zone, hit a piece of construction machinery that was parked in an area surrounded by a barricade away from the traffic lane, and suffered serious injuries.

A trooper came to the scene and reported that she’d ignored a warning sign and drove into the barricaded area. The plaintiff argued that she saw the barricades, but they were in the middle of the highway and didn’t show which lane was closed. She sued the contractors, RK Hall and Stacy Lyon, for negligently failing to generate and implement a plan for traffic safety. The contractors argued in response that they’d complied with the Texas Department of Transportation Traffic Control Plan for the project. The trial court agreed with the contractors and granted summary judgment for them.

The plaintiff appealed. The appellate court explained that contractors that repair roads for the state must conform to the specifications of the governmental unit supervising the work. A contractor for the Texas Department of Transportation that substantially complies with contract documents is immune from liability in personal injury lawsuits brought as a result of the work.

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road-work-ahead-2-1225792-e1460054276199In Texas Department of Transportation v. Brown, the plaintiff was driving on Hwy 82, in an area that was a construction zone, when she crashed into an unmarked machine parked in the right-hand lane. Later, she would claim that the barricade drums that were put between the two lanes didn’t show which lane was closed.

She sued the contractors for the Texas Department of Transportation (Department) and others for negligence. The defendants designated the Department as the responsible third party. She then amended her suit to include the Department as a defendant. She argued that the Department’s governmental immunity was waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). The TTCA required pre-suit notice. Her petition didn’t claim to provide pre-suit notice, only that she had generally met all the prerequisites to file suit.

The Department filed a verified answer and claimed governmental immunity, alleging she hadn’t provided notice of her claim as required under Section 101.101(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The director of the relevant section of the Department swore that notice hadn’t been received. Later, the Department filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing there was no subject matter jurisdiction.

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demolition-4-1507956In Lopez v. Wildcat Cranes, a welder on a demolition project was injured. The welder was cutting a large steel beam, weighing thousands of pounds, which was located 25 feet above the surface of the roof, and removing it from the ceiling structure. The welder used a scissor lift to reach the beam, and another worker was going to cut the other end as soon as the welder finished cutting.

A crane was necessary to extract the beam. A company called Wildcat Cranes provided the crane, and its employee operated it. The one provided had a 12,000-pound capacity. The operator relied on a lift director to estimate the weight of the beam and direct the extraction by radio. The operator had the final decision as to whether the beam was within the crane’s capacity to lift. In this case, the lift director estimated the weight was 12,000 pounds, so he told the operator to apply a 6,000-pound counterweight. The estimate was not right.

As the beam was being cut, the operator knew something was wrong. The cab in which he was sitting began shaking, and a safety alarm went off, among other things. On the roof, the beam once cut fell four feet, and either it snagged the welder’s safety lanyard or hit the scissor lift. The welder was thrown from the platform and hung there by his safety lanyard. He climbed back on the platform without getting hurt.

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houses-939091-mIn Maldonado v. Sumeer Homes, the plaintiff appealed from three summary judgments in a personal injury action. The case arose from injuries the plaintiff suffered while working as a sheetrock installer on stilts during Sumeer Homes’ construction of a home. He tripped and fell on a stack of sheetrock. The plaintiff was working for Arturo Galvan, who’d been hired by a drywall subcontractor, who was in turn working for Sumeer Homes. The sheetrock was delivered and stacked by Moises Aguilar.

After the accident, the plaintiff sued the builders and Arturo Galvan for negligence and gross negligence. He alleged that the sheetrock had been placed negligently and that the defendants failed to warn of the danger. He also alleged that he was told to work on stilts, even though the sheetrock was negligently placed on the ground, and that all the defendants were responsible for supervising and keeping safe the workers on the job.

The builders moved for summary judgment. They challenged the breach of duty and proximate cause aspects of the plaintiff’s claims. They also argued that he had no evidence that they violated a statute for his negligence per se claim, among other things, and all three motions were granted. The plaintiff appealed.

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wall1-1432688-mIn Joyce Steel Erection, Ltd. v. Bonner, a Texas appellate court considered a plaintiff who was pinned by an extremely heavy concrete tilt wall at a construction site. He suffered serious injuries and needed numerous expensive surgeries. He sued Joyce Steel Erection, Ltd., Caruthers Construction, and Self Concrete, Inc. Joyce didn’t settle, but the others did.

The plaintiff proceeded to trial against Joyce. The jury found $3.5 million in past damages and $3.5 million in future damages. It determined the defendant was 34% at fault, the plaintiff was 34% at fault, and the plaintiff’s employer was 33% at fault. The trial court entered judgment against Joyce after deducting for the other parties’ degree of fault and the settlement amounts.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court should have excluded any damages that could be attributed to the plaintiff’s employer and for failing to follow a particular formula in calculating prejudgment interest.

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