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Construction Worker Receives $3,000,000 Settlement In Civil Case

Attorney: Dennis J. Sherwin, Partner, Civil Department, Rose, Klein & Marias, Ontario Office

John Doe was working on the demolition of a Von’s store in Southern California. Mr. Doe’s job was to cut the concrete floor in a portion of the market so that the floor could then be removed. The general contractor on the project, company A, hired company B to do the demolition work. Company B, in order to make more money from the deal, created company C to do the concrete cutting on its projects. Mr. Doe worked for company C. Approximately one hour before Mr. Doe’s accident, company B removed portions of the false ceiling in the store. When one area of the ceiling was removed, a large object known as a grease shaft was seen suspended from the store’s roof. This dangerous condition was unknown before the removal of the ceiling. The employees of companies A and B claimed that they were unaware of the grease shaft even after the ceiling was removed as it was located approximately twelve feet above the floor. The grease shaft had once been used to vent smoke and grease from a stove that had been located in the area, but had not been in use for many years, after another remodel of the store. The grease shaft had been left in it’s original position, but covered from view by the false ceiling. The removal of the shaft was not part of the demolition work. John Doe was instructed to perform his concrete cutting operation directly below the shaft. During the course of the cutting, the shaft fell down, hitting and severely injuring Mr. Doe.

Mr. Doe hired Rose, Klein & Marias to represent him for the injuries he sustained. A workers’ compensation claim was filed by the firm’s Ontario office. Dennis J. Sherwin, a partner and trial lawyer in the Ontario office, also filed a civil lawsuit against company A and company B, claiming that the two companies were negligent in their control of the work site in not removing the grease shaft, or insuring that the shaft was properly secured before John Doe worked under it. Companies A and B asserted that they were unaware of the presence of the grease shaft, that the grease shaft was not part of the demolition project, that presence of the shaft was apparent to John Doe and his supervisor, and that if they had any concerns regarding the presence of the shaft, they could have called it to the attention of company A and B, and refused to work underneath the shaft until it was made safe. They further argued that the shaft had been present for many years prior to the incident and therefore there was nothing to alert anyone that the shaft may not be properly secured.

John Doe had suffered several prior work related accidents involving some of the same portions of his body that were injured in the accident of October 31, 2006. Further, Mr. Doe had medication dependency problems stemming from those prior accidents. Companies A and B asserted that many of Mr. Doe’s injuries and damages were to some extent, pre-existing and not related to the accident.

Just before the matter was to go to trial, the insurance carrier for companies A and B offered to pay their policy limit of $3,000,000, which was accepted by Mr. Doe. The settlement also included the continuing payment by the workers’ compensation carrier of all John Doe’s future medical care for the remainder of his life. In addition to the settlement of the civil case, Mr. Doe received approximately $900,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

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