In construction work accidents, finding the liable party is key.
It is not enough to sue the land owner and the general contactor. This is especially so if the injured party worked for the general contractor.
Generally, during construction the owner is “out of possession” and does not control the work site. The owner’s agent or general contractor is responsible for the work site. However, where the injured client works for the “G.C.”, it is necessary to determine if another company caused the accident. That is because the injured worker of the G.C. cannot sue his employer, the G.C.
Sometimes that determination can be made only during discovery in the case.
Here is a case example:
Henry Jones was the foreman for Apex Construction. Apex was reconstructing the mens bathrooms in one of the Rikers Island buildings. The Rikers jail complex is owned by the City of New York.
Apex was the general contractor. It hired a subcontractor, Superior Contractors, to do some of the work, such as demolition and painting. Superior hired another sub-contractor, Ironman Construction, to do some of Superior’s work.
On the day of his accident, Jones went to inspect a bathroom which had been demolished down to the steel floor joists. He walked on a joist. Someone had painted the joist, and it was slippery. Jones slipped and hit the wall with great force. He sustained back injuries. He underwent surgery, and he was unable to return to work.
Apparently, someone painted the joist shortly before Jones entered the room. Jones as the foreman of the G.C. said that painting should not have been done at that early stage of the work. The question was who did the painting?
Both “subs” denied doing the work. Their work records indicated no painting. We needed to prove that one of the subs did the work. If we could not prove this, then Jones would not recover.
The evidence pointed to Ironman Construction as having done the painting. There was testimony from Jones’s co-worker that Chauncey Hill, a painter from Ironman, was seen in the area in a “haz-mat” suit. Hill would wear a haz-mat suit when working in the demolished bathrooms since there had been leakage from waste water pipers. Furthermore, Hill only did painting, and if he were working in the bathroom, then he was painting. Also, Jones’s co-worker testified that there was “word” circulating at the site that the City inspector was snooping around and that the work site had better be in “ship-shape” condition.
This circumstantial evidence was enough to cause Ironman to take responsibility and settle.
If you have been injured on the job at a construction site, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at either 800-581-1434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark E. Seitelman, 2/28/11, www.seitelman.com.