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$2.8 Million Verdict for Worker Injured During Dismantling of Crane

Amount: $2,800,000
Court: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Plaintiff’s Counsel: Jonathan D. Mester

Thomas Mester and Jonathan D. Mester obtained a $2.8 million jury verdict for a 59 year old truck driver who was injured while assisting in the dismantling of a crane. The injury occurred when our client was at a job-site in Michigan. The client, who was employed by an Ohio crane rental company, had been dispatched to the Michigan job-site to pick up a piece of machinery and transport it to another project elsewhere in Michigan.

When our client arrived at the Michigan job-site, he was asked by his supervisor to assist in the loading of a dismantled crane onto a flatbed truck for transport. As part of this process, our client was asked to assist the supervisor in placing a pendent line from the crane onto a forklift so it could be loaded onto the truck. As our client attempted to load the pendent line cable onto the forklift, the cable began to unwind like a snake. The client, not realizing this, bent over to pick up something, at which point the knuckle end of the cable struck him in the head. As a result, our client suffered permanent head injuries, including a serious seizure disorder which renders him unable to work as a truck driver and forced him to give up his CDL license.

A lawsuit was initiated against the client’s employer on the theory of employer intentional tort. To succeed under this theory, the plaintiff must prove that the employer knew of a dangerous condition, knew that subjecting the employee to the dangerous condition would be substantially certain to result in injury, and, despite this knowledge, required the employee to work in the dangerous work environment. In prosecuting this case, depositions were taken of numerous workers from the crane company. Evidence was developed showing that the crane company had hired ironworkers out of a Union assembly hall in Michigan without verifying that they were trained or taking any steps to train them. These untrained workers then wound the pendent lines for loading onto the truck without performing the important step of securing the line with wire after it was coiled. The evidence revealed that the crane company knew that if the pendent line coils were not properly secured, they had a tendency to unwind, and that this created a dangerous condition. Plaintiff thus contended that the crane company knew that failing to verify that the workers it hired to perform this task were properly trained was substantially certain to result in injury, and that, despite this knowledge, it required the plaintiff to work in this dangerous environment.

The crane company, on the other hand, contended that it frequently hired union workers without checking their training, and that, because these individuals were union workers, it assumed they knew how to perform the job of dismantling a crane. The crane company moved for summary judgment on this basis, contending it had no liability in this matter. After extensive briefing to the court done by Nurenberg Paris attorney Kathleen J. St. John, the trial judge ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to have his case put before a jury. Thereafter, a one week jury trial was held, with the jury rendering a verdict for our client in the amount of $2.8 million.

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