On October 8, 1990, Jay Lloyd was impaled when he fell from a piece of construction equipment onto a 3/4″ steel rod protruding from the ground at a construction site.
The construction project involved the erection of a building for Campbell Soup in Camden, New Jersey. During the course of construction, after a portion of the building was already erected, the building was redesigned from a one-story to a two-story structure, requiring the placement of additional pilings to support the weight of an additional floor.
The general contractor for the project, R.M. Shoemaker subcontracted with plaintiff’s employer Tri-State Pile Inc. to drive the pilings. The work area was surrounded by protruding 3/4″ steel rods that had been installed by Fluidics, Inc., a mechanical contractor, to support the underground plumbing system. Plaintiff’s employer used a crane with leads to drive the piles. Leads hold the pile in place while the pile is then driven into the ground by a hammer suspended from the crane. Plaintiff was the “monkey” for the gang and had to climb up the leads to manhandle the pile into position beneath the hammer. The leads were not equipped with a ladder, climbing cable, or other fall-arresting equipment.
Plaintiff climbed the leads to a height of approximately 12 to 15 feet, attempted to secure the lanyard of his safety belt to the piledriving leads, slipped, fell backward, and was impaled on a 3/4″ rod, that entered at his hip and was driven into his abdominal cavity towards his shoulder. His co-worker and best friend wrenched him off the rod and he was rushed to nearby Cooper Hospital.
R.M. Shoemaker Company was the general contractor for the project.
Plaintiffs alleged that Shoemaker was both statutorily and contractually responsible for overall site safety. Plaintiff established that progress photos taken in the months before this accident showed other instances of unprotected projecting steel rods. These rods can be protected by simply attaching an orange plastic cap to the top, preventing or minimizing impalement. Plaintiffs also attacked the adequacy of Shoemaker’s on-site safety effort, supervision, and coordination of the work.
Fluidics was the mechanical contractor for the project and had a contractual and statutory obligation to ensure that the steel rods that it installed were properly protected. Fluidics maintained that it had not been at the accident site for several months before the accident and that either the general contractor, plaintiff’s employer, or both had the obligation to maintain the plastic caps.
Tri-State Pile was plaintiff’s employer and was joined pursuant to an indemnity agreement with Shoemaker. Plaintiffs maintained that Tri-State, along with the other defendants, had both the statutory and contractual obligation to provide for construction safety and to ensure that all protruding steel was protected.
Plaintiff claimed that Campbell Soup had violated its nondelegable duty to provide a safe place to work and that by changing the design of the building during the construction process, it created additional hazards because the pile driving work would have to be performed in an area covered with projecting steel rods.
Risk Management Systems & Services, Inc. was hired to perform a safety audit at the project. Plaintiff maintained that they inspected the job site before plaintiff’s accident and knew or should have known of the uncovered projecting steel rods.
Equipment Corp. of America, Inc. manufactured the pile driving leads in 1988. Plaintiff maintained that the pile driving leads failed to meet both OSHA and ANSI requirements because they were not equipped with an adequate ladder, climbing cable, or fall arresting equipment. Plaintiff’s expert maintained that the leads should have been designed with an adequate ladder and a climbing cable system that would have allowed plaintiff to climb freely while his safety lanyard was attached to the cable but would restrain him if he fell.
Injury: Plaintiff suffered a fractured acetabular (pelvis), fractured rib, perforated colon, colostomy, a liver abscess, collapsed lung, infected leg, and a torn rotator cuff. He was hospitalized for approximately 52 days. His medical expenses were approximately $203,213.78. Plaintiff, a union dock builder was earning approximately $36,000.00 per year. Plaintiff’s economist projected a loss of earning capacity in the range of approximately $1,900,000.00 to $4,400,000.00.
Plaintiff suffers from persistent pain in his hip and shoulder, and significant scarring. He also suffers from significant post-traumatic stress disorder with recurrent dreams of disembowelment. His co-worker and best friend was so psychologically traumatized by the horrific nature of the accident, he could not continue working in the construction industry. Plaintiff has a continuing fear of heights. The accident dramatically impacted the plaintiff’s relationship with his wife, and there was a very significant loss of consortium claim.
Result: The case settled for $3,587,654.00. The negligence defendants, R.M. Shoemaker Company, Campbell Soup, Inc., Fluidics, Inc.. Tri-State Pile, Inc., and Risk Management Systems & Services, Inc. paid $3,000,000.00 combined. The amount paid by each defendant was not revealed. Equipment Corp. of America paid the remaining $587,654.00.
Plaintiff’s Expert Witnesses: Stephen A. Estrin, construction safety, Mahopac, New York; J. Nigel Ellis, commercial egress systems/occupational fall protection, Wilmington, Delaware.
Defendants’ Expert Witnesses: Paul Kuehne, P.E., construction safety/fall arresting, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Philip Spergel, Ed.D., vocational rehabilitation, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; Henry Naughton, P.E., construction safety, Edison, New Jersey; Daniel W. Heyer, P.E.; Michael E. Weyler, Ph.D., P.E., construction safety, Atlanta, Georgia; Timothy J. Michaels, M.D., psychiatry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Milton Wohl, orthopedic surgery, M.D., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Ingo Zeise, C.S.P., construction safety, Elkton, Maryland; Arlis McMahon, C.C.I., construction safety, Nicholasville, Kentucky; Michael J. Gabor, lead design and specifications, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Daniels, Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Barrett, Ltd., Philadelphia, Pa.
Lloyd v. R.M. Shoemaker, Co., No. 106 April Term (Philadelphia Ct. of Common Pleas, Pa. 1996).