$12 Million Settlement for Construction Project Superintendent Crushed by Fallen Trellis

Attorneys with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky secured a $12 million settlement for a man injured by a fallen steel trellis at a construction site.

Plaintiffs counsel Douglas DiSandro and Andrew Duffy said obtaining the settlement hinged on striking a tricky balance between protecting their client, a superintendent of the construction project, from comparative negligence claims while holding the other contractors and subcontractors responsible.

“We normally beat the hell out of project superintendents in construction cases,” said Duffy. But here, he said, he and his colleague focused on the mistakes of the worker whose actions directly caused the accident and sought to demonstrate that their client did not know about the worker’s unsafe practices.

From there, Duffy said, he and his co-counsel dug into the project’s contracts to bring claims against a number of organizations involved in the construction, with a focus on defendants Impact Steel Inc. and Chowns Fabrication and Rigging Inc.

In discovery we were able to build a record to show that, more than just the worker who swung the hammer that day, the accident was the domino result of a breakdown in construction sequencing and coordination in the weeks leading up to [the plaintiff’s] tragic accident.

Douglas DiSandro

The worker who caused the 2017 accident was an employee of Impact Steel acting as a subcontractor for Chowns to secure a steel trellis to the fourth floor of a building at Ursinus College. According to the plaintiff’s pretrial brief, the trellis was not properly secured, and the employee improperly used a sledgehammer to knock out a supporting column, which caused the trellis to fall.

The trellis crushed then-42-year-old Charles Rodgers and left him with long-term neurological and orthopedic injuries.

Both Impact Steel and Chowns acknowledged in their pretrial memos that they had some responsibility to ensure the safety of the site, but they each claimed that the various other parties in the case also shared in that duty. The defendants all pointed in part to Kinsley Construction Inc., Rodgers’ employer, as one of the organizations with a role in ensuring safety, but Kinsley had been granted a motion of summary judgment on claims and cross-claims against it in May 2021.

Under the terms of the settlement, which were finalized March 31, Impact Steel and Chowns are set to pay $6 million each to the plaintiff, with Chowns’ payment made on behalf of the other identified defendants. Duffy said the payments comprise the full extent of the defendants’ insurance coverage.

Stephen Ledva Jr. of Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers represented Impact Steel, and Francis Deasey and Henri Marcel of Deasey Mahoney & Valentini represented Chowns. Defense counsel did not respond to requests for comment.

The suit, captioned Rodgers v. Impact Steel, was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

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