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Corboy & Demetrio Obtains $10 Million for Injured Worker in Decade-Old Lawsuit

12.16.2021

Corboy & Demetrio has obtained a $10 million settlement on behalf of a Local 502 Cement Mason Finisher who was injured while working at the Metropolitan Water District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) plant in Chicago.

Jeffrey Andrews, then 50, sustained significant orthopedic injuries and head injuries while he was attempting to transition from one job-made wooden ladder onto a fiberglass extension ladder. Andrews was a cement mason finisher employed by F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC, a member of a joint venture, and on April 21, 2011, he was assigned to work at the MWRD’s Calumet water reclamation plant with his co-worker, Luis Cuadrado.  The workers were assigned the task of applying grout to a gate at the bottom of a 29-foot effluent chamber.

To reach the bottom of the chamber, the workers used two ladders.  First, they ascended a job-made wooden ladder to reach the top of the chamber.  Then, they pivoted their bodies around the wooden ladder and onto a fiberglass extension ladder, which was set inside the chamber.  The workers would then descend into the chamber using the fiberglass ladder.  The two ladders were higher than the top of the chamber and were angled toward each other.  There was no platform for workers to transition from one ladder to the other.  This ladder configuration, without a safety access platform, had been used, at least six times prior to the date of the occurrence.

While transitioning from the job-made wooden ladder to the fiberglass extension ladder, Andrews fell about 29 feet and landed on his co-worker, who already had descended into the chamber.

Andrews suffered career-ending orthopedic and head injuries.  His wife, Becky, initially filed suit in 2012.  The Trial Court held the defendant was entitled to immunity and granted summary judgment.  The Appellate Court reversed the Trial Court’s judgment, 2018 Ill App (1st) 170366.  The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court and reversed the judgment of the Trial Court.  The suit was renumbered 2020 L 1473.  In August 2021, the Trial Court denied MWRD’s Motion for Summary Judgment based upon no duty under §414 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.

Edward G. Willer, a partner at Corboy & Demetrio, which represented Andrews and his wife Becky Andrews, said, “The District knew of the dangerous use of the ladder configuration without a safety horizontal platform, yet, decided to pursue a course of action placing these workers in harm’s way.  The District’s safety engineers were ill-equipped to identify this potential hazard, which led to this tragic event in the lives of Jeff and Becky Andrews.”

Willer added, “Critical in obtaining a favorable outcome here were the Appellate and Supreme Court decisions rejecting the application of discretionary tort immunity (§2-201) of the Illinois Immunity Act.  Another hurdle that was overcome was the denial of defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment based upon no duty under §414 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts – construction negligence.”

Mr. Andrews’ medical expenses were more than $700,000 and lost wages of $1,517,000.00.  Becky Andrews suffered and continues to suffer loss of society and loss of consortium.

Key evidence in defeating the defense’s summary judgment motion was the testimony of Greg Florek, MWRD’s on-site Senior Engineer, who testified that the District had nothing to do with how the contractor performed its work or with safety aspects of the work.  Florek admitted that he had no education or training in construction safety.  He also testified that he walked the job site once or twice a day to check the progress and confirm that the work was being done in compliance with the contract. But Florek also testified that he did not know when the two ladders were placed in the effluent chamber at the site of the accident and did not recall ever seeing that type of ladder configuration prior to the accident.  He also stated that he never inspected the ladders involved in the occurrence or assessed whether they complied with any codes, rules, or regulations. 

Based upon the above testimony, both the Appellate and Illinois Supreme Courts found that there was no evidence of a discretionary decision to allow/disallow said ladder configuration.

In defeating the Motion for Summary Judgment, based upon no duty under §414 Restatement (Second) of Torts, significant testimony of Andrews’ co-worker revealed that the MWRD engineers previously directed Cuadrado's construction means and methodologies by ordering him not to pass through materials on the top of the job-made wooden ladder and had also previously told him to stop work for safety reasons.

Jeffrey and Becky Andrews were also represented by Corboy & Demetrio Attorneys Francis Patrick Murphy and Andrew P. Stevens.

“Never once during the travels of this case from the trial court to the appellate court to the supreme court did our goals waiver: full and complete justice for Jeff and Becky,” said Murphy.  “It was our privilege to represent Jeff and Becky throughout this case but especially before our Supreme Court where we achieved a resounding win for them.”

“While our representation was a team effort, particular credit must be given to Ed Willer for his masterful briefs and arguments in the appellate and supreme courts.  I am proud to be his partner,” Murphy added.

“This victory is a testament to the tremendous faith and persistence of Jeff and Becky Andrews. They have had to wait many years and ask many courts for this justice,” Andrew Stevens said.  “Through his Supreme Court case, Jeff has become the unintended champion for Illinois laborers who are injured working on unsafe construction sites and then told ‘not our fault’ by those who were responsible for safety in the first instance,” Stevens added.

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