$1,480,000 – Crane Contacts Overhead Powerline

The general contractor on a highway construction project for the New Jersey Highway Authority; and Parsons-Brinckerhoff Construction, the project engineer, agreed to move Jersey’s 7,200-volt uninsulated powerline over an area where crane booms were stored. Several days later, Cronce, 42, was hooking a chain around a crane boom section when the crane operator lowered the boom and contacted the powerline. Cronce was electrocuted. He had been a truck driver with average annual earnings of about $27,800. Cronce is survived by his wife and one minor child.

His wife sued the utility, alleging that it had been grossly negligent in approving the relocation of the powerline to an area where crane operations were likely to occur.

Suit against T.C. Lloyd, the company that had contracted to relocate the line, alleged, among other things, failure to comply with contract provisions requiring it to investigate physical conditions at the job site.

Plaintiff alleged that George Harms Construction had violated OSHA and state regulations by locating its storage area near powerlines. Suit against Parsons-Brinckerhoff alleged, in part, that it had participated in the negligent decision to relocate the powerline.

Suit against the New Jersey Highway Authority asserted respondeat superior liability for the acts of Parsons-Brinckerhoff. Plaintiff also alleged that the authority and the state transportation department had approved site specifications that did not address the powerline hazard.

Finally, plaintiff sued the crane manufacturer, seller, and supplier, alleging negligent design, manufacture, and sale of a crane without an insulating line to impede the flow of electricity down the hoisting cable of the crane.

Plaintiff settled with the manufacturer for a confidential amount and with the other defendants for $1.48 million. The utility and T.C. Lloyd paid $475,000, the state agencies and the general contractor paid $475,000, Parsons-Brinckerhoff paid $475,000, and the seller of the crane paid $50,000.

Plaintiff’s Experts: Alan Cohen, construction engineering, Philadelphia, Pa. Ben J. Lehman, highway construction, Stateline, Nev. E. Patrick McGuire, human factors, Bernardsville, N.J.

Plaintiff’s Counsel: *Robert J. Mongeluzzi, Philadelphia, Pa.

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