Defectively Installed Guardrail Causes Catastrophic Injuries to Electrician

Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff C.M. was an electrician working for an electrical contractor that had been hired by the general contractor to perform electrical work at a housing development project. While working from a second story landing of a home, C.M. stepped up on a defectively installed mid-rail of a temporary guardrail fall protection system. The mid-rail, which had been affixed to its support with only one nail, collapsed. As a result, C.M. toppled over the guardrail and fell approximately 15 feet to the entryway landing below.

Plaintiff sued three defendants, including the general contractor, the framing contractor, and his employer's safety consultant. Plaintiff claimed that the framing contractor who had been hired by the general contractor to install and maintain the guardrail was negligent because the mid-rail was neither compliant with OSHA standards nor the contractor's own standards. Plaintiff alleged that the general contractor had retained control over safety under the terms of the contract and by conducting daily safety inspections of the project site. In exercising its retained control, the general contractor conducted inadequate inspections and failed to have the defective guardrail fixed. Plaintiff argued that the safety consultant provided insufficient safety training to plaintiff.

Defendants' Allegations

Defendants argued that Plaintiff could not prove causation because the fall was not witnessed and Plaintiff had no memory of the events leading up to the incident. Defendants denied that the mid-rail was inadequate and that it had anything to do with Plaintiff's fall. If the mid-rail was involved, Plaintiff violated safety rules prohibiting the use of a guardrail as a ladder. Defendants further argued that Plaintiff contributed to his own injuries by not using an extension ladder, which they claimed would have been the only safe way to do the job. Defendants also alleged that Plaintiff's employer was responsible for providing Plaintiff with a safe work environment, including providing all necessary safety training and equipment for the job.

Injuries

Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in permanent cognitive deficits, neurological injuries, and numerous orthopedic fractures. Plaintiff attempted to return to work, and in fact did work some light to medium duty tasks. Due to the limitations from his injuries, Plaintiff was not medically cleared to return to his job.

Damages

Plaintiff claimed damages of past medical expenses of $500,000, a life care plan of $2,400,000, and $1,300,000 to $1,700,000 in past and future lost earnings capacity (present value). Plaintiff also sought non-economic damages.

Result

After defeating two motions for summary judgment, Plaintiff settled with the defendants for a total of $4,550,000. Plaintiff's employer, who had filed its own complaint, agreed to waive its Worker's Compensation lien of $620,000, for a total result of $5,170,000 for Plaintiff.