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Illinois Partners Prevail in High-Exposure Cook County Construction Site Accident Case

Chicago Partners Jonathan E. Barrish and Scott D. Stephenson recently prevailed at the Circuit Court of Cook County in a complex, high-exposure construction site accident case wherein a general contractor, masonry subcontractor and carpentry subcontractor each filed third-party complaints against our commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) subcontractor client after our client’s pipefitter employee sustained injuries on a worksite.

Our client was subcontracted to provide HVAC services to a public school where an annex structure was being built. Plaintiff, our client’s employee and foreman, was working on the jobsite as a pipefitter. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff entered the site through a partially blocked entrance obstructed by a pile of stacked drywall while carrying a 75-pound bundle of allthread rod on his shoulder. Plaintiff slipped and fell on wet fireproofing and suffered injuries that required shoulder and knee surgery, prohibiting him from returning to work as a pipefitter.

Plaintiff filed suit against the contractor and two subcontractors; and subsequently, each of those parties sued our client with third-party complaints. Prior to trial, Jonathan and Scott obtained dismissal of the carpentry contractor’s third-party complaint with prejudice. In a separate ruling, the Court held that our client’s contract with the general contractor for the work our client was to perform had a Kotecki waiver. Consequently, our client had unlimited liability to the general contractor on its third-party claim for contribution.

At trial, one of the Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff’s expert opined that Plaintiff’s unsafe behavior should be imputed to our client, reasoning that Plaintiff was our client’s foreman and the person assigned to manage jobsite safety. Throughout the examination of witnesses, Jonathan and Scott showed Plaintiff was provided extensive training on construction site safety. This information enabled our attorneys to successfully argue to the jury that Plaintiff’s accident was not due to a lack of sufficient training provided by our client.

Following a three-week trial, the Cook County jury found Plaintiff 50 percent liable; the carpentry subcontractor 35 percent liable; the general contractor 15 percent liable; and, that our client was not liable for Plaintiff’s injuries. As a result of this favorable verdict, our client is entitled to recover the full amount of its net workers’ compensation lien, nearly $900,000.00.

Jonathan Barrish focuses his practice on construction, workers’ compensation, employers’ liability and employment law, and toxic tort litigation. He also handles general commercial and business litigation matters, and provides training for managerial staff on handling post-accident investigations.

Scott Stephenson has more than 30 years of experience handling complex commercial litigation. He has extensive litigation experience with construction injury, construction defect, premises liability and toxic tort cases, as well as defending clients involved in trucking and commercial vehicle litigation.