Tower Crane Crushes Union Ironworker

December 20, 2018

John W. Patton, Jr., David F. Ryan, and Kelly L. Ferron, representing defendant Adjustable Forms, Inc., of the multiple named defendants, tried this case to verdict in June and July of 2018 before Judge Edward S. Harmening in Cook County, Illinois.

Decedent, a 45-year-old male and a Local 1 Union ironworker, was crushed during the erection of a tower crane when he, without notice, leaned his body outside of the tower crane, in the way of a climber making its way down the tower crane. Our codefendant Central Contractors technician, also the assembly/disassembly director and designated signal person, failed to obtain the all clear prior to ordering the Adjustable Forms’ crane operator, who was unable to see any of the crew approximately 200’ below him, to engage the lever to lower the climber. Adjustable Forms’ crane operator lowered the climber as it crushed the Decedent. Central admitted partial fault and stated that this failure was a cause of the injuries and death of the Decedent. Adjustable Forms was contractually obligated to enforce safety and OSHA requirements as to every worker on the project, including employees of subcontractors such as the Decedent.

The Decedent made over $200,000 a year as a foreman ironworker and had a wife and three minor children (ages 11, 13, and 15 at the time of the incident). The Plaintiff did not present any medical evidence during Plaintiff’s case-in-chief, and, in fact, counsel for Adjustable Forms called the Decedent’s treating physician, Dr. Michael Shapiro, who testified that the primary injury the Decedent sustained, a fully transected aorta, is a fatal crushing injury and almost always results in instantaneous death.

Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for an award of $90 million. The jury awarded only $11 million in total, which was reduced to $10.175 million after the Decedent’s portion of negligence was accounted for. Prior to the verdict, the jurors had a question indicating that they were considering apportioning no fault to Adjustable Forms due to the Decedent’s negligence. Ultimately, Adjustable Forms was only found to be 15% liable, and Central was found to be 77.5% liable, with the remainder of fault lying with the Decedent.

Comprising the $11 million, defense economist expert Dr. Baade’s estimate of economic loss ranged from $2.2 million to $2.7 million, and Plaintiff economist expert Stan Smith’s estimate was approximately $7.6 million. The jury awarded $3.3 million in economic damages. For grief, sorrow, and mental suffering the jury awarded $4.5 million to the Decedent’s wife and his three children. $1.5 million was provided for loss of society and $1.7 million was awarded for pain and suffering.

The last demand prior to trial was $34 million and last offer (global from all Defendants) was $10 million. Defendants suggested a verdict of $6.5 million in closing arguments.

Prior to trial, Patton & Ryan successfully obtained summary judgment on behalf of its other client, Leopardo, Inc., the general contractor on the project, and also obtained a voluntary dismissal of Elm State, Inc., the owner of the subject premises.