Defective Design and Inspection of Shoring and Formwork Causes Catastrophic Construction Collapse

Synopsis

Three union carpenters suffered catastrophic injuries when a multi-story construction project collapsed during a concrete pour. A subcontractor had agreed to professionally engineer and design the "formwork" system to support the wet concrete while it hardened. The subcontractor also agreed to conduct safety inspections of the formwork before each concrete pour, a failsafe to confirm that the as-built formwork matched the plans.

Plaintiff's Allegations

The formwork and shoring subcontractor negligently designed a concrete support system that did not match the architect's plans. The subcontractor also failed to correct the problem, because its on-site inspector did not notify anyone that the as-built shoring system did not match the subcontractor's design. The result of these multiple levels of negligence was a catastrophic collapse of over 125 tons of wet concrete onto plaintiffs. (The Veen Firm represented two of the three injured union carpenters.)

Defendant's Allegations

The formwork subcontractor initially contended that it properly designed the formwork. Later, defendant admitted that a low-level draftsman omitted a design element from the plans, and the subcontractor's engineer never reviewed the draft drawings before approving them.

The subcontractor initially contended that it had never agreed to inspect the as-built formwork. Plaintiffs discovered that defendant's policies and procedures required it to inspect the formwork and notify plaintiffs' employer of any life safety hazards.

Defendant also contended that liability rested with plaintiffs' employer. (The employer was not a party to the case, because its liability was limited to paying workers' compensation.)

Injuries/Damages

Plaintiff 1 suffered multiple fractures that required surgery. The incident also caused long-term psychological trauma and chronic pain. His medical care claim exceeded $250,000. His injuries also prevented him from returning to the union job he loved, resulting in a wage loss claim that exceeded $1 million.

Plaintiff 2 was hospitalized for almost two months, in which he endured multiple surgeries to attempt to fix his multiple compound fractures. He also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of being buried alive in wet concrete. His medical care claim approached $600,000. His injuries prevented him from returning to heavy carpentry work, and his wage loss claim approached $2 million.

Result

These two plaintiffs settled their claims for $1,687,500 and $3,375,000.