Bay Area Workers Ask The Expert – November 2015

The Veen Firm proudly partners with the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council to provide legal help for Bay Area workers in the trades.

Many complicated legal issues affect workers in our community. The Veen Firm is passionate about providing the education and resources needed to protect Bay Area workers.

Real people submit questions, and the attorneys at The Veen Firm respond directly. This month’s expertise is provided by Anthony Label:

Q. My husband had a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury when a formwork system collapsed, burying him in tons of wet concrete and equipment. What can we expect from a civil lawsuit?

A. This is a great question covering a lot of information, so I’ll try to provide an overview. A civil lawsuit for a formwork collapse will look at multiple phases of the construction project to see who may be legally responsible for the failure. At the engineering phase, the standard of care requires engineers to verify that engineered plans match the building architect’s master plans. Following this standard is necessary to make sure the concrete is adequately supported while it hardens. Additionally, in a concrete formwork collapse, a falsework, formwork and shoring equipment provider may also share responsibility. The formwork/falsework provider may have agreed to perform pre-pour inspections, to make sure the as-built system matches with the engineered plans and architect’s plans, and to make sure the system will support the load of the concrete. If the formwork inspection is performed negligently, the inspector might fail to recognize that the as-built formwork system does not comply with plans, or will be insufficient to hold the weight of the load. This may be an additional basis for liability, or if the formwork system inspector is from a different company, it might provide an additional defendant.

The lawsuit itself will probably take anywhere from one year to three years to complete. Your husband will have a claim for his own personal injuries, and in California will be able to claim economic damages described in California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3903A-E. Those economic losses include lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, and loss of ability to provide household services. He will also be able to recover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, worry, mental distress, and other harms that do not have a fixed economic value. As his spouse, you will have your own claim for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is described in CACI 3920, and allows for compensation for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, and the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations or the ability to have children.

During the lawsuit for the formwork collapse, you and your husband would likely be required to sit for depositions, and to answer written questions (interrogatories), and produce documents and things relevant to the collapse and your damages. Your husband would also likely be required to submit to medical examinations by medical experts retained by the defendants. There is much more than I can cover here, but that is a good general overview.

Anthony L. Label is a team leader of the Label trial team at the The Veen Firm, in San Francisco, CA. Mr. Label represents people who have suffered severe personal injuries which have a life-changing, career-changing, life-ending, or career-ending impact. He represents plaintiffs in actions arising from construction site accidents, industrial accidents, dangerous premises, auto accidents, wrongful death, governmental or public entity liability, defective products, and others. In 2013, Mr. Label was invited for membership to the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers, and currently holds the record for the largest recovery in the history of the Bar Association of San Francisco’s lawyer referral service program.

(Reposted from the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council.)

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