$2.29 Million Cook County Jury Verdict in Product Defect on Construction Site

Ignacio Maravilla was working as a laborer during a River North construction project at Wabash Avenue and Superior Street for Holy Name Cathedral on March 27, 2012. He was employed by Benchmark Construction Co.

As a 72-inch precast concrete flat-top slab was being hoisted, one of its imbedded steel lifting loops failed and broke off the slab, which struck Maravilla in the head and face.

The concrete slab with the imbedded loop inserts was designed and manufactured by the defendant Welch Brothers Inc. This lawsuit was for the injuries suffered by Maravilla because of the product defect of the concrete slab hoisting device.

Maravilla sustained multiple fractures to his face, orbital bones, nasal bones and skull base requiring permanent implantation of three titanium plates and 16 screws.

Maravilla also suffered a traumatic brain injury, subdural hematoma (a blood bleed around the lining of the brain), subarachnoid hemorrhage, traumatic ptosis and facial scarring. He now has cognitive deficits, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. These conditions were proved to be related to the traumatic brain injury.

In spite of these serious injuries, Maravilla did return to work four and a half months after the occurrence.  His past medical expenses were $130,000 and his lost time from his job was proved to be $40,000.

Maravilla asserted the precast concrete slab was defective, unreasonably dangerous in its design and manufacture, could not support the intended weight load applied to the lifting loops, violated OSHA regulations and lacked any warnings or instructions.

The defendant Welch Brothers Inc. conceded the slab was not in compliance with OSHA safety standards, but argued that the incident was caused by Maravilla’s improper manner of rigging the slab as well as his lack of training by his employer, Benchmark Construction Co.  The defendant further contested the nature and extent of Maravilla’s injuries.

The jury reportedly deliberated only 45 minutes before signing its verdict for a total of $2,290,000, made up of the following damages:

  • $500,000 for loss of normal life;
  • $500,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $500,000 for disfigurement;
  • $500,000 for emotional distress;
  • $250,000 for past and future medical expenses; and
  • $40,000 for past lost earnings.

Before the verdict was read by the judge, the parties entered into a high/low agreement of $600,000 (the low) to $2,200,000 (the high) with a waiver of all rights to appeal.  The verdict was also subject to a $278,853 setoff for pretrial settlements from other defendants.

The demand to settle the case before trial was $3,750,000. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $3,100,000.  The only offer to settle made before trial was $1 million.

The attorneys representing Maravilla were Nicholas A. Caputo and Christopher R. Kearns.

Maravilla’s treating medical experts included an otolaryngologist (ENT), a trauma surgeon, a urologist, an ophthalmologist, a psychiatrist and a plastic surgeon. The experts that testified on behalf of Maravilla at trial were in the fields of mechanical engineering and neuropsychology.  The defendant produced experts in structural engineering, neurology, neuropsychology and ophthalmology.

Ignacio Maravilla v. Welch Brothers Inc., 12 L 13778 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site injury cases, product defect cases, pharmaceutical product liability cases and work injury cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Chicago Ridge, Summit, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Western Springs, Harvey, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Orland Park, Chicago (Little Village, Lawndale, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Irving Park, Albany Park, West Ridge), Evanston, Glenview, Northfield and Highland Park, Ill.

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