Illinois Construction Accident General Contractor Held Responsible For Injury To Employee Of Sub-Contractor

In a case before the Seventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Chicago, it was held that a general contractor can be held liable for injuries to an employee of a sub-contractor where it is shown that the general contractor has assumed a degree of the responsibility for his safety with which sub-contractors do their work. Jose Aguirre v. Turner Construction Company, et al., No. 08-3999.

The Illinois construction site accident occurred when the worker fell from a scaffold while working on the renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago. The Appellate Court reversed the decision for summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The lower court had ruled that the defendant did not owe any duty to the plaintiff because he was an employee of the subcontractor and that any negligence by the defendant was not relevant because it did not have exclusive control of the scaffold from which plaintiff fell.

In this case, the general contractor, a joint venture called TBMK, took steps to monitor the care of its sub-contractors for the safety of the workers on the project and on occasion required a sub-contractor to take additional precautions to insure proper safety and prevent worksite accidents. The Seventh Circuit said that those facts met the exception to the rule that general contractors normally are not liable to someone injured by the negligence of a sub-contractor.

The court stated, “The defendant had assumed a duty to supervise the measures taken by the sub-contractors for the protection of their workers but, as in suits against grocery stores complaining of falls caused by debris on a grocer’s floor, the fulfillment of the duty did not require continuous or repetitive inspections.”

According to the court, the question then was whether the defendant TBMK breached its duty of care to the injured worker and prevent the Chicago construction site injury. The U.S. Court of Appeals said that the evidence showed that either the injured worker caused the accident or the accident was caused by the improper assembly of a scaffold and the assembler in this case was the sub-contractor – the plaintiff’s employer.

The court said that the defendant didn’t breach its duty when it failed to check all of the scaffolds when they were first assembled. Per the court the record showed that the defendant was “assiduous” in inspecting scaffolds, including those of the plaintiff’s employer. The court found that there was not enough evidence by the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s negligence so affirmed the verdict in favor of the defendant.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois construction site accident cases and Cook County workers compensation lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Chicago, including Elmwood Park, Oak Lawn, Downers Grove, and Schaumburg.