Articles Posted in Work Injury

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telephone poleIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a plaintiff appealed a take-nothing judgment in his personal injury and premises liability claim against an electrical company. The case arose when a man was working as a telephone lineman for a subcontractor of AT&T.

The subcontractor’s work was to install a new line of telephone cable on specific utility poles. These poles had been built in the 1940s in the city’s roads, based on a franchise agreement. At the time, the defendant owned the poles, and they were jointly used by the defendant and AT&T as power and telephone lines, based on an agreement made between their predecessors.

The defendant’s primary power line was attached to every other pole. When installing a new telephone line, the plaintiff used a chain hoist attached to a pole to which the power line was attached. As he took hold of the chain hoist, he tugged it, and the power line attached to the pole touched a bolt on the top of another pole to which it was attached. There was an excessive current that blew the fuse and caused a piece of metal to impale the plaintiff’s hand.

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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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forkliftIn 4Front Engineered Solutions, Inc. v. Rosales, a Texas appellate court considered a case in which a subcontractor sued a property owner after suffering injuries while working with a contractor on the property. The safety manager of a distribution warehouse owned by 4Front contracted with an electrician to repair a sign above the entrance. The electrician had previously done work for 4Front without a problem, using equipment borrowed from 4Front. This time, he subcontracted with the plaintiff, also an electrician, to help him.

The electrician would later testify that when the safety manager asked him to repair the sign, he’d asked to use a scissors lift he’d used on prior occasions, and the safety manager agreed. However, when the electrician and the plaintiff arrived, the safety manager said that it wasn’t available and that he could use a stand-up forklift to do the job. The electrician answered that he could operate the forklift, but slowly.

The electrician and the plaintiff worked for three to four hours one day, and then they came back after a two-day absence to finish the work. The electrician operated the forklift with the plaintiff standing in a man basket attached to the forklift. While the plaintiff was up by the sign on the second morning, the electrician drove the lift off the edge of the sidewalk, and the lift toppled. The plaintiff fell and was badly hurt.

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scaffoldingIn Alonso v. Westin Homes Corporation, a Texas appellate court considered whether summary judgment was proper in a premises liability case. The case arose when a framer was working on homes being constructed by Westin Homes Corporation and related companies. He didn’t have a written agreement either with the company’s framing contractor or the framing contractor’s subcontractor, for which he worked directly. The framing contractor was doing its work under an independent contractor agreement.

While on the job, the framer fell and hurt his arm. He’d been putting together plywood to create the flooring for the second floor and stepped on a weak spot that broke and resulted in his fall. He’d been using a saw that was modified by the framing subcontractor so that the safety cover wouldn’t engage. When he fell, the framer tried to throw the saw away, but he inadvertently engaged it so that the blade was spinning as he fell. He landed on the saw and sliced his arm, suffering severe lacerations and nerve damage.

The framer sued Westin, claiming negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and premises liability. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing there was no evidence it had been negligent per se or grossly negligent. It also claimed it didn’t have control over how the work was done and didn’t actually know of the dangerous condition that caused the framer’s nerve damage.

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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-1-1193849-e1462297336122In Tractor Supply Co. of Texas, LP v. McGowan, the plaintiff sued a tractor supply distribution company and related parties for personal injuries. The case arose when a temporary staffing company assigned the plaintiff to work in the tractor supply distribution center. Employees of the center trained, supervised, and instructed him on his job duties.

The plaintiff was working as a picker on the date of the accident. Another employee was loading a pallet and pushed another pallet loaded with dog food off the rack. This landed on the plaintiff, causing serious injuries.

The plaintiff prevailed at trial. The defendant tractor supply distribution company appealed, arguing that the court had made a mistake in depriving it of the exclusive remedy defense provided by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.

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air-conditionning-1464931 (1)In The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Munoz, the plaintiff was hurt by heavy equipment on which he worked near property owned by the university. Employed by Universal Controls, Inc. (UCI), he was an electrician. UCI subcontracted to retrofit an air-handling unit (a type of air conditioner in offices). UCI needed to install new computer panels and sensors. UCI had to run wiring for the system, including making decisions about where the wire would be run. Its employees were responsible to do the work. The university didn’t supply materials, but it owned the complex, including the towers to which air conditioning would be supplied.

The second tower was a 14-story building. The unit at issue was a pulley-driven motor system. Although it was supposed to have a safety cover, it was missing. The plaintiff started working on the unit in October and worked there for seven or eight days without a problem. He noticed the missing safety cover before the date of his injury, October 9.

On that day, he saw that UCI employees were there, but no university employees were there. He noticed that another employee had left wire in the walkway near an uncovered spinning wheel and realized it was dangerous. However, he simply walked around the wire instead of tying it on multiple occasions. One time, his leg got caught in the wire, which was entangled in the spinning wheel, and he was jerked as the wire pulled by the spinning wheel lifted him and twisted his knee. His knee and back were hurt, and he had to have two surgeries, both of which were unsuccessful.

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scaffolding-silhouette-1228347In Palmer v. Newtron Beaumont, the plaintiff appealed on the basis that the trial court shouldn’t have granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff was an employee of Motiva who sued the defendant (Newtron Beaumont) when a Newtron employee stepped on him at the Motiva plant while getting down from scaffolding. The plaintiff argued that it was Newtron’s negligence that caused his injuries.

Newtron filed a summary judgment motion, claiming that it and Motiva had entered into an agreement whereby Motiva was to provide workers’ compensation insurance and employer’s liability insurance for Newtron and its employees when they worked for Motiva. The Motiva policy covered all of Motiva’s employees, including the plaintiff. Newtron argued that Texas law made Newtron Motiva’s deemed employee, and therefore it was the plaintiff’s fellow employee under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. This would make it immune from the plaintiff’s effort to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

In its summary judgment motion, the defendant argued that Motiva kept the right to implement and maintain its workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance. The motion further argued that the plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of his employment with Motiva at the time of the injury, and his exclusive remedy under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act barred him from filing a civil suit for work-related injuries against any of his fellow employees (such as Newtron).

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janitor-s-bucket-with-mop-1-1479822In Jefferson County v. Akins, the plaintiff sued a county for personal injuries arising from her slip and fall in the hallway of the county jail. She was an employee of the jail, supervising inmates in the kitchen area in the middle of the night, and the fall occurred when she was leaving the jail after the end of her shift. Water often dripped in the hallway from trays being delivered from the kitchens.

Before falling, the plaintiff noticed an employee supervising a crew that was mopping the hallway. She didn’t know what she’d fallen on, but after she fell, she noticed her back was wet and the floor was shiny. Her supervisor witnessed the fall, and was of the opinion that she had fallen because the crew had just mopped the area where the plaintiff was injured.

The supervisor of the cleaning crew testified that there was a sign noting the floor was slippery on the mop bucket used by her crew. She also testified that she would dry-mop areas after mopping because she was concerned about safety. She also contradicted the plaintiff’s testimony about where she was when the plaintiff fell. She testified that she was standing about a foot from the accident and her crew hadn’t mopped the location of the fall. However, she had scolded the crew immediately after the fall, because she believed in that moment that they had left the area mopped and wet. Later she noticed drops of water on the floor in the door of the dining room and inside the dining area. It was her opinion that the trays from the kitchen carts had dripped and caused the plaintiff’s fall.

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farm-field-views-1200640In Painter v. Sandridge Energy, Inc., a Texas appellate court considered the death of two oil field employees and injuries to a third oil field employee. The workers were doing drilling on behalf of their employer, Amerimex. Amerimex was hired by Sandridge, which had a lease to drill wells at a ranch. The contract described Amerimex as an independent contractor but specified that the crew worked under Sandridge’s control, supervision, and direction. Sandridge was obligated to pay bonuses to the Amerimex employees so that they wouldn’t be hired away by other drillers. Sandridge had an on-site supervisor who stayed in a trailer.

The accident happened after the workers’ shift while they were driving to a bunkhouse 30-40 miles away owned by Amerimex. There was no requirement that the workers live in the bunkhouse or ride with their crew leader to and from the drilling site, but since the crew leader was the only one with a car, they did drive to and from the bunkhouse with him every day. The crew worked in shifts of seven days on and seven days off. While driving, the crew leader ran into the back of another car. Two of the employees were killed, and another was injured. Later, the crew leader testified that nobody at Sandridge gave him any driving instructions.

The decedents’ relatives and the surviving employee sued the other driver in the crash, Amerimex, and Sandridge, the owner of the oil and gas lease. Their petition alleged that Sandridge was responsible for the crew leader’s actions because it gave a financial incentive to the crew leader to transport them in his car. They alternatively alleged the crew leader was the agent of Sandridge due to a transportation bonus, or that he was a “borrowed servant” of Sandridge.

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