Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

In a recent appeals case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit deferred an opinion for an appeal involving an application of Florida tort law to a dispute resulting from the collapse of a crane boom. The case was between the Plaintiff-Appellee, NBIS Construction & Transport Insurance Services, Inc. (NBIS), and the Defendants-Appellants, Liebherr-America, Inc. (Liebherr-America). NBIS, the third-party administrator and managing general agent of the insurer of the crane’s owner, recovered over $1.7 million, in a negligence suit against Liebherr-America. At the bench trial, the magistrate judge rejected Liebherr-America’s argument that Florida’s economic loss rule shielded it from liability. Liebherr-America appealed.

Facts of the Case

In 2016, Sims Crane & Equipment Company purchased a crane where Liebherr-America was under contract to provide factory-provided technicians on-site to train Sims personnel in safety procedures. Two Sims crane operators picked up the crane and a Liebherr-American trainer instructed them on the proper procedure for transportation. Training continued from January 30, 2017, to February 4, 2017. Liebherr-America normally provides around 80 hours of training to new customers, the Sims operators only received 40 hours of training. The Sims received training involving swapping out different crane booms but skipped training on multiple other issues, including receiving no training on the proper placement of specific pins for the crane.

On February 16, 2018, the crane was being used for a construction project. The incorrect pin was manipulated and was subsequently replaced in the incorrect position. A few days later, when the crane was being used, the boom would not fully extend despite the computer reading no errors. A crane technician was dispatched to the job site and a senior crane operator advised the operator that the crane would need to be placed in manual mode to override the computer lock. When the crane was put in manual mode and the boom was extended, it collapsed on itself, causing both a fatality and damage to the crane. Prior to this collapse, a similar collapse had occurred in Japan, leading Liebherr-Germany to publish safety guidance on the issue as well as implementing multiple safety precautions around pin usage.

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Industrial and equipment accidents are serious and can result in severe injuries or even death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2011 to 2017, over 600 workers were killed in forklift accidents in the United States and over 7,000 workers experienced nonfatal forklift injuries with days away from work every year. Forklift accidents only account for approximately 1% of all warehouse or factory accidents. Unfortunately, due to the dangerous nature of the equipment, forklift incidents are responsible for 11% of all physical injuries in warehouse or factory accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that more stringent training policies could prevent approximately 70% of forklift accidents in the United States. OSHA also projects that in total, between 35,000 and 62,000 forklift injuries occur each year. Concerningly, it is estimated that 36% of forklift-related deaths are pedestrians. Forklifts are so dangerous in part due to how they are deployed and in part due to how they are constructed. Loads are often carried in front of a forklift, blocking the driver’s view, increasing the chances of an accident. Forklifts are often used to raise heavy loads to considerable heights, resulting in dangerous circumstances. Forklifts also turn using rear wheels, increasing the chances of tipping over during tight turns. Additionally, forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and reach speeds of 18 miles per hour, making any forklift crash a serious collision. Lastly, forklifts only have breaks on their front wheels, making it harder to stop quickly and safely. A recent news article discussed a fatal forklift accident in Daytona Beach.

According to the news report, the accident happened on Monday, February 13, when a forklift operator moving materials from a truck ran over a woman in her 60s. The worker was part of a team working to repair a building that was damaged in Hurricane Ian. The Public Safety Director, Michael Fowler, stated that the worker did not see the pedestrian past the construction materials, causing him to hit her. According to the article, the driver was navigating using the space between two loads and never saw the pedestrian before hitting her. The woman was killed by the impact. The death has been classified as an industrial incident and will be investigated by the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a recent opinion from the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida, a plaintiff appealed his claims after he was denied damages in a suit relating to his sustained injuries from a heavy object being dropped onto his foot. The plaintiff attempted to hold Sunbelt, the loader’s owner, directly liable for his injuries. The complaint alleged that Sunbelt should be held liable for its negligent failure to require that the operators of its loaders be properly trained and should be vicariously liable for the defendant’s alleged negligent operation of the loader under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine. The trial court sided against the plaintiff, which led the plaintiff to appeal.

In this case, the defendant is a licensed contractor who was hired for a clean-up job on private property. The plaintiff accompanied the defendant to the clean-up site and assisted the defendant with cleaning the debris. There were ramps placed inside a bucket attachment that the defendant brought to the cleanup site. After all of the debris was collected, the defendant directed the plaintiff to retrieve the ramps so that the defendant could drive the loader back onto the trailer. The defendant picked up the bucket attachment using the loader’s grapple and drove the loaders toward the trailer. The loader came to a complete stop, and the plaintiff approached the loader on foot and reached into the bucket attachment to retrieve the ramps from within the bucket. While doing so, the loader lurched forward unexpectedly, slipped from his grip, fell on his foot, and amputated two of his toes.

Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine imposes strict vicarious liability on the owner of a motor vehicle who voluntarily entrusts that motor vehicle to an individual whose negligent operation causes harm to another. Under this doctrine, an owner who entrusts another to operate the motor vehicle has an obligation to ensure that the vehicle is operated safely. There is an exception to the doctrine, where the person entrusted with the vehicle injures another while both persons are using the vehicle. If this exception applies, the vehicle’s owner cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligent operation of the vehicle. The exception applies when the individuals are “jointly operating and controlling the movement of the vehicle with common purpose and community interest of enterprise, with equal right to control and direct the conduct of each other.”

As communities in Florida and nationwide continue to make investments in infrastructure and development projects, construction remains a powerhouse of industry in the state. Unfortunately, construction jobs can be hazardous for both the workers as well as members of the public. A 27-year-old construction worker was recently killed in an accident in Tampa Bay when a large concrete slab broke from a seawall and crushed the man.

According to a local news report discussing the tragedy, workers had been replacing a seawall in Port Tampa Bay when a piece of concrete broke apart, and a slab weighing approximately 3000 lbs fell month the worker. Emergency crews were called, but the worker was pronounced dead at the scene. The article does not contain many details, but it appears that negligence may have been a factor in the accident.

Florida workplace accidents caused thousands of injuries and deaths each year. People hurt or killed in such incidents can often pursue compensation for their injuries and loss by making a Florida workers’ compensation claim. Florida law requires most employers to maintain workers’ compensation insurance that covers losses related to workplace accidents. Workers’ compensation coverage may pay for medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages related to their injury.

When someone is injured while on the job, Florida law sometimes allows a person to file a civil negligence suit against their employer for negligently putting them in a hazardous situation or otherwise causing their injuries from an accident. These suits, if successful, can result in significant monetary compensation to the employee, covering their injuries, lost wages, past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. However, they can also be very difficult to win, especially when the defendant is a large company and has invested significant resources into their legal team. Because this is a complicated area of law, potential plaintiffs should consider working with a personal injury attorney to maximize their chances for success.

Recently, a federal appellate court considered a case which highlights the difficulties of bringing a suit after a workplace injury. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff worked for a construction company that was hired by an electric company to install, replace, and repair high voltage transmission lines. While working, the plaintiff climbed a pole to change out a wire and suffered an electric shock. As a result, he suffered serious burns to his hands, arms, and right leg, as well as brain damage. He ultimately had to have his left hand amputated and is now dealing with chronic pain and permanent disfigurement.

The plaintiff filed suit against the electric company, and the defendant company then filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. The court found that the defendant electric company could not be held liable because they employed the construction company as an independent contractor. Generally, those employing independent contractors cannot be held responsible for injuries that happen in their work unless they had sufficient control over the independent contractors. Because the electric company left control to the construction company and only was concerned with the final product, not how the project was completed, the court found they could not be held liable.

Not long ago, a man who was injured after he was involved in an accident with a construction vehicle was awarded $3 million after a jury trial. In a recent opinion, an appellate court affirmed the jury’s verdict.

The case presents several interesting issues for Florida truck accident victims, or those who have been injured in other Florida motor vehicle accidents. Most importantly, the case discusses how courts deal with arguments that the plaintiff shared blame in causing the accident that resulted in their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving in a construction zone when he came upon a stopped or slow-moving construction vehicle. The plaintiff decided to pass the vehicle by crossing the double-yellow line. However, as the plaintiff attempted to pass the construction vehicle, it made a sharp left turn, colliding with the plaintiff’s car.

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In a recent appellate decision, the Florida Supreme Court held that construction loaders are considered dangerous instrumentalities as a matter of law. As a result of the court’s opinion, Florida personal injury victims who have been injured by these dangerous machines can pursue a claim for compensation against the owners of construction loaders regardless of whether the owner was negligent.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was seriously injured when he was working as an independent contractor for a hauling company. The hauling company had hired the plaintiff to help several employees clear a vacant lot that was full of vegetation and debris.

Evidently, the hauling company leased a large construction loader to help its employees and the plaintiff clear the lot. Apparently, while the lot was being cleared, an employee of the hauling company dropped a stump onto the plaintiff’s hand, requiring the plaintiff’s finger be amputated.

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Earlier this month, a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed, killing six and injuring nine others. While the cause of the collapse is still under official investigation, there were reports that one of the lead engineers noticed cracks in the bridge before it was even complete and reported the cracks to administration. However, nothing was done.According to one news report, one of the several people who were injured in the bridge collapse has recently filed a Florida personal injury lawsuit against several of the parties involved in the construction of the bridge, including the firm that designed it and the construction company charged with installing the bridge. Evidently, the recently filed case was brought by a man who was riding his bike near the bridge when it collapsed.

The lawsuit claims that as the bridge collapsed, a motorist swerved to avoid either the falling bridge or another motorist and struck the man while he was on his bicycle. As a result of the collision, the man sustained serious injuries.

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Stacking inferences is impermissible in Florida personal injury cases, but a defendant may not frame a single inference as multiple inferences in order to defeat a plaintiff’s claim. In a recent case that illustrates this point, a Florida appellate court considered a single-vehicle accident that happened on a part of Interstate 95 that a construction company was contracted to resurface.

The case arose from an accident at dusk. It had been raining most of the day and was raining at the time of the accident. Another driver witnessed the accident, which started in the far left passing lane. The witness thought the plaintiff’s car, which was traveling in that lane, was going too fast for the rainy weather. The witness saw a sheet of water on the road and saw the car go sideways in the air. When he was cross-examined on this point, he stated he wasn’t sure whether there were puddles. The plaintiff’s car landed in the grass by the right lane.

A few minutes after the accident, a state trooper arrived. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital. Later the trooper testified at a deposition that there was standing water in the far right lane. His report included a diagram, which suggested the plaintiff lost control of the car when it touched standing water.

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Legislation was recently introduced by a state representative that would require industries to report the chemicals injected into the ground while fracking in Florida. Currently there is no fracking operation in Florida, although there has been recent speculation that fracking would begin in South Florida near other oil and gas operations. Fracking is a technique used to stimulate oil and gas production by forcing water through the ground at high pressures. The process has been scrutinized for its potential to damage the environment and expose workers to silica inhalation.

Silica and asbestos exposure can cause serious damage to the exposed person. Asbestos was a form of insulation commonly used in construction because of its sound absorption and ability resist fire, heat, and electrical damage. Silica is a material found in several types of rocks that are frequently used in construction. Both are tiny particles that can remain in the lungs once inhaled, accumulating and causing scarring and inflammation. This affects the exposed person’s ability to breathe and often results in serious illness like mesothelioma.

Employers of construction businesses are obligated to maintain their workers’ health and safety, including exposure to silica or asbestos. If they fail to use ordinary and reasonable care on the work site, and either fail to warn employees of potential harm or neglect to maintain a work site that minimizes exposure, the employer or owner may be liable for injuries the employees suffer. Manufacturers of products that contain silica or asbestos may also be liable for injuries suffered due to product defects. The product itself may be considered unsafe, and inadequate warnings or instructions for safe use may be absent. Safety products themselves that are designed to protect you from silica or asbestos exposure may also fail, creating a breach in the manufacturer’s obligation to provide a safe product.

Florida legislation determines who can file an asbestos or silica related claim. A plaintiff must show that physical impairment was a result of a medical condition to which exposure to asbestos was a substantial factor. Extensive medical documentation is required by a qualified medical professional. Medical examiners assess the impairment rating of the individual’s lung capacity. There must also be proof of the injured’s substantial occupational exposure to asbestos.

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