U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Crane Accident Case for Lack of Proximate Cause

In July 2013, ALL Erection & Crane Rental Corp. of Independence, Ohio, leased a crane to White Construction of Clinton, Ind. The crane was a Manitowoc 2250 Crawler Crane.

In the summer of 2012, Kyle Carson was working for White Construction at a wind farm in Indiana where his employer had a contract to build wind turbines.

Carson worked primarily as a crane oiler, providing general maintenance on the crane and serving as the eyes and ears of Joe Dowell, the crane operator. On Sept. 20, 2012, Carson and Dowell were told to move the crane to a wind turbine platform several miles from where the crane started that day.

During the long move, Crane approached a road with an overhead powerline. Carson knew that the crane had arrived at the power-line long before the lines were to be lowered. He signaled for Dowell to stop the crane at the base of some wood matting placed there to allow the crane to cross the road.

Dowell stopped the crane but the crane failed to stop and moved onto the wooden matting where Carson was standing. As the crane flattened one end of the matting, the other end, where Carson was standing, began to rise. Carson slid down the matting and into the crane’s path. The crane’s threads crushed Carson’s right foot, which resulted in an amputation.

Carson sued ALL for negligence. The U.S. District Court held that ALL did owe a duty of care to Carson to perform a proper inspection of the crane upon delivery. The court also found that because ALL did not specifically inspect the travel detent upon delivery, there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether ALL breached that duty. However, the district court judge also found that Carson had offered no evidence of proximate cause and granted summary judgment in favor of ALL. Carson appealed.

Applying Indiana law, the court noted that Indiana imposes a duty on the supplier of a chattel to conduct a proper inspection, which would disclose the existence of a defect. ALL argued that the undisputed evidence showed that a proper inspection would not have revealed any defect.

The appeals panel noted that Indiana law was also clear that inquiry into the reasonable discoverability of a defect may be proper in evaluating whether a supplier has breached the duty of reasonable care but not in determining whether such duty exists.

The panel wrote that ALL’s possible breach of duty had been to inspect the travel detent operation before delivery. However, the panel found that the post-accident inspection of the crane went beyond the type of inspection that was required of ALL, and that a jury could not find that, by not engaging in such prolonged inspection, that ALL had breached its duty.

Accordingly, the panel found that even if ALL had breached its duty by failing to inspect the travel detent mechanism before delivery, Carson did not offer evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that ALL’s alleged breach was a proximate cause of his injury. In addition, the panel noted that White Construction had the crane for about 3 months before it malfunctioned. How often the travel detent was used before the day of the accident was a critical fact that was omitted from the evidence in the record. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals concluded that a reasonable jury could not find proximate cause and therefore affirmed the district court judge’s decision granting summary judgment dismissing this cause.

Kyle Carson v. ALL Erection & Crane Rental Corp., No. 14-3243 (U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Cir., Feb. 3, 2016).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction site injury cases, work injury cases, car accident cases, bicycle accident cases, truck accident cases, motorcycle accident cases and premises liability cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Joliet, Elgin, Aurora, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Crestwood, Forest Park, Park Ridge, Chicago (South Loop, Greek Town, Little Italy, Ukrainian Village, Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, West Town), Lincolnshire, Lansing, Lynwood and Niles, Ill.

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