In a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion, the Court considered a slip and fall case brought against a scaffolding contractor. The case arose when a pipefitter was scheduled to work overtime at a refinery. For the overtime shift, he worked with a different crew than usual, but all crewmembers were employees. The crew had the job of conducting routine maintenance. The pipefitter’s job was dangerous, and he and others were on a scaffold 15 feet above the ground and received fresh air through special equipment.
The pipefitter slipped on some plywood that wasn’t nailed down, and as a result, he fell up to his arms through a hole in the scaffold and hurt his neck. A contractor hired by the pipefitter’s employer built the scaffold. The contractor was required to follow OSHA regulations and other policies, and it needed to inspect about 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery before and during work shifts and use. The scaffold at issue was inspected a week before the work started, but the contractor’s reps weren’t there on the date of the fall, and they were not there during the three days before it.
The pipefitter sued the contractor, claiming improper construction of the scaffold and failure to warn. The contractor didn’t raise the issue of premises liability. The jury found the contractor negligent. It assigned 51% responsibility to the contractor and 49% to the pipefitter/plaintiff. The damages awarded were $178,000 in future medical expenses only.