Illinois Wrongful Death Jury Verdict of 734,400 Awarded for Worker Killed During Torch Cutting of Rail Car

A Cook County jury has determined that the company engaging a torch-cutter is responsible for worker’s wrongful death. The jury verdict was $734,400. Fernando Corral, age 51, was working as a torch-cutter at Mervis Industries, Inc. cutting a portion of a single-deck rail car when a piece of steel fell on him causing his wrongful death. He was survived by his wife and four children.

The family of Mr. Corral brought an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit alleging that the defendant company, Mervis, chose not to make the area where Mr. Corral was working safe, that it should have recognized the hazards involved in torch-cutting work and guarded against those hazards.

The Illinois wrongful death case had a complicated past. A motion for summary judgment was first granted by a trial judge indicating that Mervis did not owe a duty to Corral because he was working for an independent contractor at the time of this incident.

On appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court, the summary judgment was reversed finding that there was a question of fact that should go to a jury as to whether Mervis owed a duty to Mr. Corral under Restatement of Torts (2d), Section 414. That section states:

One who entrusts work to an independent contractor, but who retains the control of any part of the work, is subject to liability for physical harm to others for whose safety the employer owes a duty of reasonable care, which is caused by his failure to exercise his control with reasonable care.

In order for this rule to apply, the employer, in this case Mervis, must have retained at least some degree of control over the manner in which the work was done.

At trial it was argued that the decedent was responsible for the safety of his work. That he should have known of the hazards of this kind of work given his 30 years of experience.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois wrongful death lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Northbrook, Westmont, Buffalo Grove, and Roscoe Village.

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