Ironworker with unlatched harness paralyzed in fall
|OSHA, Slips, Trips & Falls - Fall from Height, Slips, Trips & Falls - Trip and Fall, Workplace - Workplace Safety|
|Ronald Bayer v. Garbe Iron Works, Inc., Panduit Corporation and Tylk Gustafson Reckers/ Garbe Iron Works, Inc., Panduit Corporation and Tylk Gustafson Reckers v. Area Erectors, Inc., No. 07-L-009877|
|Cook County Circuit Court, IL|
- Michael D. Carter; Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd.; Chicago, IL, for Ronald Bayer
- Clifford W. Horwitz; Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd.; Chicago, IL, for Ronald Bayer
- Jay R. Luchsinger; Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd.; Chicago, IL, for Ronald Bayer
- Steven Wiker Ph.D.; Safety; Bellevue, WA called by: Clifford Horwitz, Jay Luchsinger
- David Chen M.D.; Physical Medicine; Chicago, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- Robert Hanlon Ph.D.; Neuropsychiatry; Chicago, IL called by: Michael Carter
- Gary Skoog Ph.D.; Economics; Chicago, IL called by: Clifford Horwitz, Jay Luchsinger
- Steven Stanos D.O.; Pain Management; Chicago, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- Gary Yarkony M.D.; Physical Medicine; Elgin, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- James Sylora M.D.; Urology; Evergreen Park, IL called by: Michael Carter
- Michael Bednar M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Maywood, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- Denise Crute M.D.; Neurosurgery; Rockford, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- Henry Brennan M.S., S.L.P., C.C.M., C.L.C.P.; Life Care Planning; Westchester, IL called by: Michael Carter, Michael Carter
- Glen E. Amundsen; SmithAmundsen LLC; Chicago, IL, for Garbe Iron Works, Inc.
- Kevin J. Caplis; Querrey & Harrow, Ltd.; Chicago, IL, for Area Erectors, Inc.
- Margaret C. Firnstein; SmithAmundsen LLC; Chicago, IL, for Garbe Iron Works, Inc.
- Mark C. Friedlander; Schiff Hardin LLP; Chicago, IL, for Tylk Gustafson Reckers
- John W. PattonJr.; Patton & Ryan LLC; Chicago, IL, for Panduit Corporation
- Amy R. Skaggs; Schiff Hardin LLP; Chicago, IL, for Tylk Gustafson Reckers
- Michael Vranicar; Patton & Ryan LLC; Chicago, IL, for Panduit Corporation
- Michael Hartzmark Ph.D; Economics; Chicago, IL called by: John Patton, Michael Vranicar
- Christopher Randolph Ph.D.; Neuropsychology; Chicago, IL called by: John Patton, Michael Vranicar
- Jan Klosterman R.N., C.N.L.C.P.; Life Care Planning; St. Louis, MO called by: John Patton, Michael Vranicar
- Chartis (primary) for Panduit
- FCCI Insurance Group for Panduit
- Arch Insurance Group for Panduit
On June 20, 2007, plaintiff Ronald Bayer, 36, an ironworker, was working at a warehouse in DeKalb. His employer, Area Erectors, Inc., had been hired by general contractor Panduit Corp. to erect the structural steel as part of an addition to the warehouse. Bayer was on top of a beam when he tripped on a stud. Bayer, who wasn't using his safety harness, fell headfirst approximately 15 feet into a concrete wall below. Bayer's neck snapped upon impact, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.
Bayer sued Panduit Corp.; Tylk Gustafson Reckers, the architectural engineer; and Garbe Iron Works, Inc., the fabricator that installed the studs on the beam. The defendants then sued Area Erectors, Bayer's employer, as a third-party defendant. Bayer alleged that the defendants failed to maintain a safe environment for Bayer to do his job and negligently caused the accident to occur.
Area Erectors settled prior to trial for $2 million. Garbe Iron Works settled after the trial had commenced for a confidential amount. Tylk was dismissed by summary judgment on June 16, 2010.
Plaintiff's counsel alleged that the presence of studs in the beams was negligent, as they constituted a tripping hazard and were in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. Plaintiff's counsel also maintained that the defendant failed to provide stanchions and cables, which were required for the job site according to the defendant's site-specific safety plan for the project.
According to plaintiff's counsel, the ironworker's tasks are not usually performed in a basket, which the defendant claimed to have provided for the site. The warnings given by OSHA and the manufacturers of the baskets regarding the baskets and lanyards were repeatedly violated by the defendant, exposing the workers to unnecessary safety risks. Furthermore, according to plaintiff's counsel, the failure of the contractor to not provide safety lifelines and stanchions went against the site-specific safety plan of the project.
The defendants claimed to have provided Bayer and the rest of the workers that day a basket to hook their safety harnesses, as opposed to safety cables.
The defense contended that Bayer was solely at fault, as he untied himself from the basket and then climbed on the beam, violating the rules that required workers to hook their safety harness to the elevated basket, and to be tied off at all times at any height above 6 feet. According to the defense, Bayer had regularly complied with the rules, allegedly over 100 times, but on this occasion decided not to.
Bayer's co-workers, including the foreman at the site, testified that Bayer was instructed to work solely from the mainlift, not to get out of the basket to perform his job. Since Bayer chose to get out without a safety harness, the defense alleged, it was his own negligence that caused the fall.
Bayer was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony Hospital, in Chicago. He was ultimately diagnosed with a severed spinal cord as well as a traumatic brain injury. Other conditions doctor's later included are neurogenic bladder and bowel, skin ulcers, edema, autonomic dysreflexia, traumatic hyspadius and chronic pain as a result of the paralysis and brain trauma
Bayer underwent a fusion procedure from the base of his skull to C1, and then from C3 to T1. As a result of his traumatic injuries, Bayer required 24-hour care, needing two around-the-clock caregivers to monitor him and reposition his body to prevent bedsores.
Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury for a total recovery of $80 million to $115 million, which included damages such as lost income, pain and suffering, loss of normal life and medical costs, although workers compensation did cover $5 million of Bayer's medical expenses.
The defense contended that Bayer was not brain-damaged, and challenged the extent of the injuries the 24-hour nursing care Bayer allegedly would require. Defense counsel maintained that plaintiff's counsel did not make any official demand at trial.
The jury found Panduit 80 percent liable and Bayer 20 percent liable. The jury awarded $80 million, which was reduced to $64 million.
$5,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost
$25,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost
$600,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability
$3,400,000 Personal Injury: FutureLostEarningsCapability
$2,500,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
$18,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering
$8,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Disfigurement
$2,500,000 Personal Injury: past loss of a normal life
$15,000,000 Personal Injury: future loss of a normal life
Defense counsel for Panduit reportedly plans to appeal the verdict.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and counsel for Area Erectors, Garbe Iron Works, Panduit Corp. and Tylk.