Cook County Jury Finds for Contractors in Fall Blamed for Worker’s Ankle Injury

Robert Kinstner was a forklift and machine operator employed by a masonry subcontractor working at the construction site for a new police station at 3600 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. The defendant in this case was Harbour Contractors Inc., which was the general contractor for the construction of this building. On Feb. 9, 2010, Kinstner, 42, slipped and fell on a deep rut that was covered with ice and snow. Kinstner suffered a broken ankle with disruption of the syndesmosis joint, requiring open reduction internal fixation followed by arthroscopic surgery eight months later.

He claimed that he developed complex regional pain syndrome shortly after his injury, which prevented him from working in any capacity since the date of this occurrence. He stated that because of the injury he was unable to stand and walk for any length of time. Kinstner asserted that he lost earnings and benefits of between $751,000 and nearly $2 million. He also made a claim for more than $3 million in future loss of earnings and benefits.

Kinstner maintained that the unsafe and uneven ground conditions at the work site had existed for several weeks before his injury.  He claimed that the area was a means of access for machinery and equipment but it had not been properly stoned or leveled for workers’ safety by the general contractor. Photographs of the scene taken shortly after the incident showed the presence of the ruts and uneven ground.

The plaintiffs’ supervisor supported Kinstner’s allegations regarding the unsafe ground conditions and he testified that he also slipped and fell in the same area just minutes before Kinstner’s fall. The construction safety expert for Kinstner opined that the area of the incident was dangerous and hazardous. The defendant general contractor, Harbour Contractors, had overall jobsite control, and the site conditions should have been remedied by it, which would have avoided Kinstner’s injuries.

The defendant acknowledged ruts and depressions were present in Kinstner’s work area but denied liability, denied the condition as dangerous, denied stoning was warranted and disputed the depth of the rut at issue.

The defendant Harbour Contractors presented two “insurance” medical examining physicians, two medical experts and a vocational rehab expert, all of whom opined that Kinstner did not have complex regional pain syndrome and that he was able to work in some capacity. Before trial Harbour Contractors had offered $700,000 in fresh money plus a waiver of $440,000 which was the workers’ compensation lien. The jury deliberated less than one hour, in returning its verdict of “not guilty” in favor of Harbour Contractors.

Kinstner and his lawyers presented experts in construction, pain management, industrial/occupational medicine and economics.  The defendants presented experts in safety, orthopedics, neurology and vocational rehabilitation.  The demand to settle the case before trial was $4,300,000.  The jury was asked to return a verdict in the range of $17,465,375 to $27,730,627.

Robert Kinstner v. Harbour Contractors, Inc., No. 10 L 12876 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site work injury cases, wrongful death cases, catastrophic injury cases, bicycle accident cases, truck crash cases and auto crash cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, Wheaton, Winfield, Hinsdale, Joliet, Elgin, Bridgeview, Park Forest, Tinley Park, Franklin Park, Frankfurt, Long Grove, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Niles and Des Plaines, Ill.

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