$2,250,000: Plaintiff Collects For Injuies Suffered During A Scaffolding Accident

CASE DESCRIPTION: Dennis W. was standing on a scaffold, applying sheet metal to the 3rd floor exterior of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel when the scaffolding detached from the building.  It was determined that the reason the scaffold detached from the building was because the “tie wires” used to support the scaffolding were cut from the scaffolding frame.  In the scaffold collapse, Dennis W. fell 30 feet off the scaffolding, sustaining serious injury.  OSHA was unable to determine which defendant entity cut the tie wires.  All defendants denied liability and plaintiff was blamed for causing his own injuries.

RESULT:  $2,250,000.00 total settlement

Plaintiffs, through intensive discovery and investigation, contended that an employee of Jones Scaffold Company, the scaffolding subcontractor was the most likely defendant that cut the tie wire on the date of the incident.  Plaintiffs alleged that Jones Scaffold Company fell below the standard of care not only by cutting the tie wires but also by not performing its contractual duty in inspecting the scaffolding to detect this deficiency prior to other trades occupying the scaffold.  Plaintiffs discovered contracts specifically on point that stated that Jones Scaffold Company had an affirmative duty to keep the scaffold safe prior to the various tradesmen that would use such scaffolding on a daily basis.

Plaintiffs contended that Keenan, Hopkins, Suder & Stowell Contractors (KHS&S), the plastering subcontractor, fell below the standard of care by not performing its contractual duty in inspecting the scaffolding to detect this deficiency prior to other trades occupying the scaffold.  Plaintiff contended that KHS&S, as the supervisor of Jones Scaffold Company, also had an affirmative duty to ensure that such scaffold was safe on a daily basis for use.  In the expert deposition stage, plaintiff and defense experts agreed that KHS&S had an affirmative duty for scaffold safety and all failure of Jones Scaffold Company would be imputed to KHS&S as well.

Plaintiffs contended that Turner Construction, the general contractor, fell below the standard of care by not assuring that its subcontractors, Jones and KHS&S, inspected the scaffolding after the dismantling was halted.  In discovery phase, a Turner superintendent testified that the scaffolding on the subject building was being removed prematurely.  In expert discovery, plaintiff and defense expert testimony established that Turner Construction failed in its affirmative duties to plaintiff by not ensuring that such scaffolding was secure after they received direct notice of the notice of the removal of scaffolding directly adjacent to the subject scaffold.

Plaintiff contended that he was not comparatively negligent for his own injuries in that it was not his duty to check for cut tie wires on the scaffold.  Plaintiff also contended that he was a sheet metal worker by trade and was not trained in the mechanics of a scaffold system.  Plaintiff denied having any knowledge of the cut tie wires prior to the incident.

Defendants denied plaintiff’s allegations that their respective companies cut the tie wires or had any notice of a problem prior to the incident.  Defendants contended that the tie wires were cut just prior to plaintiff’s re-entry onto the scaffold after this lunch break.  As such, defendants contended that even if they had the duty to check for such wires, no reasonable investigation would have discovered this hidden defect.  Defendants contended that their inspection schedule was sufficient in that they checked for deficiencies on scaffolding on a daily basis.  Defendants contended that plaintiff knew, or should have known, that the wires were cut prior to this entry onto the scaffolding.   Defendants contended that plaintiff had a duty to inspect the scaffold himself, especially since scaffolding was being removed adjacent to the subject scaffolding.

Defendants further contended that plaintiff’s employer, Custom Metal Fabricators, through its foreman, had a duty to ensure the scaffolding was safe prior to entry.  As such, defendants contended that Custom Metal Fabricators shared a majority of the liability in this incident.  Plaintiff was unable to bring the employer into the case-in-chief due to principles of worker’s compensation exclusive remedy.

Defendants denied the extent of the injuries being claimed by plaintiff and stated that many of the injuries were pre-existing in nature.

TYPE OF CASE: Personal Injury; Premises Liability

INJURIES: Closed head injury; cerebral contusion and/or concussion; mild left hemiparesis (paralysis) due to inability to do range of motion; acute confusional state; severe impairment in Glasgow Coma Scale; blunt chest trauma with pulmonary contusions, mediastianal hematoma and respiratory failure; status post pneumonia; dysphagia, status post placement of PEG.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 8/8/00 at approximately 2:00 p.m. at Disney’s Grand California Hotel in Anaheim.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: 47 at the time of the incident.

OCCUPATION:  Sheet metal worker

Christopher R. Aitken & Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiff’s – Dennis & Deborah W.

For Defendant’s – Turner Construction Company, KHS&S Contractors, Jones Scaffold Company, Bomel Construction, General Coatings, Inc. Doe Defendant