850,000 Jury Award for Painter Who Falls From Elevated Train Tracks – Luna v. Chicago Transit Authority

A Chicago jury awarded $850,000 to a Chicago construction employee who suffered severe injuries after falling from his work on elevated train tracks. The personal injury verdict in Raul Luna et al. v. Chicago Transit Authority, Kiewit Western Co., Divane Brothers Electric Co., et al., No. 07 L 12550, came despite evidence that suggested the employee was injured because he violated some of the construction site’s safety requirements.

Raul Luna was an industrial painter employed by SCI Coatings, LLC. At the time of his construction site accident, Luna was working on Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) elevated railroad tracks as part of the CTA’s Chicago Loop renovation project. Luna was brought in to help sandblast and paint columns on the Van Buren St. train tracks between State St. and Wabash Ave. Because the train tracks were elevated, workers were using a manlift to reach the above ground areas. This essentially involved workers securing themselves using a harness-like device in order to prevent them from falling in the event that they slipped while working above ground.

In addition to his painting duties, Luna was also responsible of removing the construction site’s containment structure, which was constructed of tarps and wood two-by-fours. In order to reach the top of containment structure, Luna used the manlift as required by the job’s safety requirements. Luna proceeded to remove the nails from the two-by-fours in order to break down the containment structure. However, at some point Luna untied himself from the manlift, exited its basket area, and began to crawl across the elevated tracks.

It was while crawly unprotected across the tracks that Luna fell; one of the two-by-fours broke as Luna was removing a nail, sending him falling to the street below. Luna sustained an epidural hematoma, a comminuted displaced wrist fracture, and a comminuted fibula fracture. The fibula fracture required an internal fixation surgery so that Luna’s bones would heal properly. In addition, Luna suffered from a traumatic brain injury, which left him with cognitive, psychological, and behavioral deficits following his construction site injury.

Luna filed a personal injury lawsuit against the CTA and several other companies working on the Chicago Loop renovation project, including Kiewit Western and Divane Brothers. Luna was seeking to recover compensatory damages for his medical expenses, pain and suffering, and alleged loss of normal life. Luna’s wife also filed a loss of consortium claim in which she alleged that she had suffered as a result of changes in her husband following his construction site injury.

The CTA responded to these claims by pointing to the plaintiff’s own negligence in his injury. Prior to the start of the construction project, the CTA had instituted a “100% tie off” requirement, which required all of the employees working on the construction project to be tied off at all times. It argued that Luna was responsible for his own work injuries because of his negligence in climbing out of the manlift without being tied off. Luna’s actions not only violated the CTA’s 100% tie off requirement, but also violated several additional safety protocols.

At the Cook County construction accident trial, Luna testified that he was aware that it was unsafe to exit the man lift without being tied off, but had done it anyway. To explain why he had knowingly engaged in unsafe behavior, Luna explained that he could not complete his work without getting out of the man lift. Furthermore, he testified that on prior occasions he had performed this type of job and had similarly not had any fall protection.

Despite Luna’s testimony that he knowingly engaged in dangerous behavior that contributed to his fall, the jury entered a verdict in his favor. However, the $1.7 million verdict was reduced by 50% for what the jury deemed to be Luna’s contributory negligence in his fall injury. The remaining 50% liability was divided among several defendants, with Kiewit Western being 35% liable, Divane Brothers being 3% liable, and the CTA being only 2% liable for Luna’s injuries. In addition, the plaintiff’s employer, SCI Coatings, LLC was found to be 10% liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The jury award was composed of the following damages:
• $1,079,000 for past and future loss of earnings;
• $372,005 for past medical expenses; and
• $248,995 for past and future pain and suffering.

The jury elected not to award any damages for Luna’s claims of disfigurement or loss of normal life. In addition, Luna’s wife did not receive any award for her loss of consortium claim.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handing Illinois construction accidents for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Oak Forest, Crystal Lake, and Western Springs.

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