Local 1 Iron Worker Suffers Traumatic Brain Injury After Fall From Beam ($9 Million)

A Local 1 Union Iron Worker recovered $9 Million after suffering a traumatic brain injury that resulted from a fall at a construction site.

The Case

While the journeyman ironworker, also a former boxer, was walking on a beam about 10 steps behind his boss, the beam started to shake. The ironworker lost his balance, and fell approximately 12-15 feet onto concrete.

In-Depth Look

On November 22, 2005, a Local 1 journeyman ironworker was working on a construction project at the Willow Inn in Northfield, IL. The Local 1 Iron Worker was beginning a break. He was walking on the beam, impacting the bolts, and his boss was about 10 steps ahead of him. When the beam started to shake, the ironworker fell from the beam approximately 12-15 feet onto concrete below.

A Catscan and X-rays revealed a fractured cheekbone and jaw, sewed lips, lacerations to the face, 3 lost teeth, and 2 chipped teeth. Medical doctors diagnosed the ironworker with a closed head injury, an l-zygomatic fracture, and persistent diplopia.

After the construction site accident, the ironworker had multiple seizures resulting in hospitalizations. In addition to headaches and double vision, the union ironworker suffered from a multitude of other problems.

FCL was the general contractor on this project. JAK Ironworkers, Inc. was the iron erection subcontractor and employer of the ironworker. FCL entered into a settlement agreement with the guardian of the ironworker, now a disabled person, in exchange for dismissing all the claims against FCL. As part of the settlement, the guardian of the ironworker was tendered an assignment of FCL’s claim against JAK Ironworkers, Inc. for contribution. The guardian, as an assignee of FLC, claimed that JAK Ironworkers, Inc. should contribute a percentage to the amount paid because of JAK, Ironworks, Inc.’s alleged negligence. The Local 1 Iron Worker was employed by JAK Ironworks (JAK), a steel erection and installation subcontractor.

Lead trial attorney and principal partner, Clifford Horwitz, stated, “The primary issue involved an “oral agreement” between the contractor and subcontractor and workers to remove fall protection below 15 feet, even though written rules required it at 6 feet.”

On one hand, the written rules in the safety manuals and written agreements that the individual workers signed off on guaranteed fall injury prevention from the top height all the way down to 6 ft.

“No ironworking company can choose to sometimes enforce, and at other times ignore, their own written safety rules – even if those rules are more stringent than the federal minimum,” continued attorney Cliff Horwitz.

There was supposedly an unwritten agreement without any of the workers’ participation that cut off the protection from 15 ft. down to the ground.

“There is no excuse for not enforcing your own safety rules, and “unwritten” rules are not enforceable rules,” commented Jay Luchsinger, a lead trial attorney, and former Local 1 ironworker.

“There was a conscious disregard for the safety of the ironworkers, as revealed by not only the cutting off of fall injury prevention below 15 ft. but also doing so with the knowledge of additional hazards posed to those workers including ‘loose iron’ and concrete installation beneath them,” added Jay Luchsinger.

Another unique issue in the litigation was whether the ironworker suffered previous brain damage during his time as a professional boxer.

The ironworker previously competed as a professional boxer in the super middleweight division between 1994 and 2005. He fought in a total of 28 fights.