George Cooper was working on a project to rehabilitate a building owned by the Budd Co. when the roof collapsed and he fell 40 feet. Cooper, fractured bones in his left arm; leg and pelvis and suffered nerve damage.
He spent 48 days in the hospital and was re-hospitalized for open-reduction surgery. He claimed he suffered ongoing swelling in the leg and reduced mobility in his arm and hand.
Budd had contracted with construction manager Barton-Malow on the project, which hired various other subcontractors including defendant Geppert Brothers, Inc., a demolition contractor. Geppert Brothers in turn hired Cooper’s employer, Marine & Mechanical, Inc., to do the asbestos removal portion of the demolition work.
Cooper filed suit alleging the defendants failed to provide fall protection in violation of the contract and Occupational Health and Safety Act standards. He also charged the defendants with failure to ascertain if the roof was strong enough to bear his weight.
Geppert Brothers was faulted for failure to provide a crane to remove stacked panels from the roof twice a day in accordance with contractual agreements. Cooper alleged this failure weakened the roof.
Barton-Malow was charged with general failure to ensure safe working conditions.
A non-union, laborer at the time of the fall, Cooper alleged he had planned to join either the pipefitters or laborers union, which would have increased his earning capacity. After the accident Cooper returned to college and was on the verge of graduating, with plans to become a commercial photographer. He argued that his wages would be significantly lower in this field than had he continued working in construction.
The defendants argued that his degree would enhance his wage-earning capacity. They pointed out that Cooper had never worked in the union and had previously expressed interest in leaving the construction field because of seasonal loss of work. They also alleged any loss of earnings ended after a short recuperation period