While most lawsuits are tried in the same state where they occurred, an Indiana construction accident was recently the subject of an Illinois personal injury lawsuit. The Indiana injury was tried in Illinois because one of the defendant’s businesses was based out of Illinois. However, to make John Mazzorana v. Berglund Construction Co., et al., No. 06 L 12451, even more unique, although the case was tried in Illinois, the court applied Indiana law.
The personal injury lawsuit was brought by John Mazzorana, an Indiana resident who was working as a bricklayer for Hawk Construction at construction site in Chesterton, Indiana. The 2006 Indiana construction accident occurred after Mazzorana fell 30 feet after stepping on a plank. The Indiana resident ruptured his Achilles tendon and fractured both his heel and a vertebrae.
Berglund Construction Co. was the general contractor for the Indiana construction job and as such was one of the main defendants in the construction accident lawsuit. Bergland Construction was based out of Illinois and so moved to remove the Indiana lawsuit to Illinois courts, a move Mazzorana’s attorneys agreed to. However, Berglund then settled its portion of the lawsuit with Mazzorana for $400,000 prior to the start of the Illinois trial. Therefore, the only remaining parties in the Illinois lawsuit were all based out of Indiana.
Perhaps it is for this reason that the Illinois judge granted a pretrial order requesting that Indiana law, and not Illinois law, be applied in the construction accident case. While the basic premises of law remain fairly consistent between the various states, there are subtle differences that can have fairly dramatic effects on the way the various laws are carried out in each state.
Take for example the rules regarding suing one’s employer. Both Indiana and Illinois workers’ compensation laws hold that an employee is not able to directly sue his employer. Both states also allow other parties to bring a third-party suit against the employer and thereby allow the jury to rule on the employer’s degree of fault in a work-related injury. However, the difference between Indiana and Illinois law comes when determining how much an employer may be required to play if it is found liable.
Under Indiana law, there is a direct correlation between the percentage of fault the jury assigns and the percentage of the verdict a defendant is required to pay. For example, if a jury finds an employer 50% responsible for its worker’s injury, then it would be responsible for paying half of the jury award. However, in Illinois, if a defendant is responsible for at least 25% of the plaintiff’s injury then it might have to pay the entire verdict, not just one-fourth of it.
After eight hours of deliberation, the jury returned a $4.1 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which included:
• $2 million for pain and suffering;
• $1.65 million for lost earnings and benefits;
• $500,000 for deformity; and
• $226,000 for medical care.
In its verdict, the jury split the apportionment of fault between the construction job’s subcontractor, Emil Perrotta Co. and the plaintiff’s employer, Hawk Construction. It found both defendants to be 50% responsible for the plaintiff’s construction site injuries. Because of the difference in how Indiana and Illinois courts handle these types of verdicts, it follows that the plaintiff would have recovered more damages if Illinois law had been applied. Therefore, the plaintiff’s attorneys have indicated that they are considering appealing the verdict based on the judge’s potential error in applying Indiana law instead of Illinois law.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois construction accidents for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Des Plaines, Calumet Park, Matteson, Orland Park and Palos Heights.
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