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Worker in Roof Accident Awarded $1.1 Million

Sometimes tragic accidents are just waiting to happen. For Antonio Morales, his severe job-related injuries were simply caused by gross negligence. Morales’ case – the result of a fall through the roof on a construction project after air conditioning equipment had been removed – was handled by Rose, Klein & Marias LLP attorney Dennis J. Sherwin from the firm’s Ontario office.

The accident occurred on March 25, 1996, at a warehouse under reconstruction in Anaheim. The project entailed removal of air coolers from the roof, filling in the holes, and re-roofing the flat surface. The roof was 30- to 35-feet off the ground. A roofing sub-contractor under the supervision of a general contractor was responsible for the job.

A building supply company was sub-contractor to the roofing sub-contractor and was responsible for delivering the roofing materials to the job site and loading them onto the roof. Morales, 33 years old at the time, was employed as a truck driver by the supply company. While on the roof, he bent over, lifted one of the pallets used to stack the roofing materials, hoisted the pallet to his waist, took one step forward and fell through an opening to the concrete floor below.

How could it happen? How could there be an unmarked, uncovered opening in defiance of common sense and construction codes?

During the suit brought by RK&M seeking damages from the construction firms, it was determined that a decision had been made to “cover the openings caused by the removal of the air conditioning equipment with either pieces of plywood or the wooden pallets.”

Representatives of the general and sub-contractor testified that they “were not familiar with OSHA requirements for covering roof openings, nor were they familiar with the custom and practice in the trade.” As unbelievable as it sounds, they claimed, “They were unaware of any requirements that roof covers be marked with a warning.”

Both individuals testified that, in their opinion, the use of a pallet to cover a roof opening was appropriate.

Neither the representatives of the general contractor or the roofing sub-contractor performed any inspection of the pallets or plywood covers to see if they were adequately secured. It was, indeed, an accident waiting to happen. And it did.

Testimony by witnesses to the tragedy all indicated that the “pallet was not secured in any fashion, offered no resistance when Morales picked it up, and that there was no warning whatsoever that the pallet was covering an opening.”

Morales was transported to a trauma unit in Santa Ana where he was diagnosed with a broken and exposed knee, broken leg, and broken wrist; fractured jaw, nose and various facial bones, loss of teeth, contusion to the right lung, severely lacerated chin and lower lip, impaired vision and other trauma. The accident resulted in multiple surgeries to repair his leg, wrist, chin and facial structure. Oral surgeries followed in an attempt to restore his teeth. He continues to wear dental braces to further correct his bite. Following the surgeries, he was placed on a lengthy regimen of three-times-per-week physical therapy. And, he awaits vocational therapy.

Clearly, it has been, and continues to be, a long road to recovery.

In addition to the $1.1 million settlement obtained by Rose, Klein & Marias LLP, Morales received in excess of $300,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

(Note: the client’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.)

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