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Corboy & Demetrio Obtains $13.5 Million for Family of Scrapyard Worker Crushed to Death

01.18.2023

Corboy & Demetrio has obtained a settlement on behalf of the family of Arlen J. Bradley, an 18-year-old truck inventory specialist who was crushed to death while he lay under a bus to take inventory of its parts, and a front-end loader operator employed by Brookfield Iron & Metal, unaware of Bradley’s presence, pushed the bus to another area at the Wilkins Rebuilders Supply scrapyard in Chicago Heights on Aug. 24, 2018. 

The wrongful death lawsuit named as defendants: Brookfield Iron & Metal, LLC; Armando San Martin; Horton Safety Consultants, Inc., a corporation; and The Horton Group, Inc.

Corboy & Demetrio Partners Edward G. Willer, Francis Patrick Murphy and Thomas Demetrio represented the Estate. 

“This fatality involving an 18-year-old man was totally preventable. Both Brookfield Iron & Metal, LLC and its safety consultant, The Horton Group, Inc., permitted unsafe heavy operator equipment practices throughout its Chicago Heights scrapyard,” Willer said.

In preparing the case for trial, Corboy & Demetrio uncovered evidence that there was no formal procedure for the employees working around the buses; there was no procedure in place to ascertain when an employee was under the bus; and that the loader operator did not have a procedure for checking for people when moving cars or buses.

“Both defendants failed to properly train, and re-train, Armando San Martin, its heavy equipment operator, in the most basic rule of Heavy Operators Equipment Scrapyard Safety: i.e., to make sure all persons are clear of, and no person is under a vehicle about to be moved by the operators,” Willer added.

“While Arlen and his father, Mark, were very close as they were both mechanical wizards who loved cars, engines and machinery, Arlen also had a deep relationship with his mother, younger brothers and sister,” Murphy said. “No settlement will fill the void created by the unnecessary death of Arlen,” he added.

The settlement was approved on Dec. 30, 2022, with  $11 million paid by Brookfield Iron & Metal, LLC, the policy limit, and  $2.5 million paid by The Horton Group.

Companies Involved:

  • Wilkins Rebuilders Supply, Inc., and Brookfield Iron & Metal LLC both work at the same site.
  • The Wilkins Rebuilders Supply, Inc. recycles the vehicle parts.  The Truck Inventory Specialist (Bradley) worked for Wilkins.  Most of the Wilkins employees work in the warehouse.
  • Brookfield Iron & Metal LLC runs the scrap yard and the recycling operation.  All the material handlers are Brookfield employees.
  • The companies are owned by the same Wilkins family.  The companies had an outside safety consultant (Horton) that came out monthly and trained both Wilkins and Brookfield employees at the same time.  The safety audits of Horton clearly establish that it addressed scrapyard safety.

Job Description:

The Truck Inventory Specialist, Arlen J. Bradley, was required to perform this bus check 6-7 times per day.  The bus check-in takes about 45 minutes including the information being filled in the computer inventory.  According to the yard foreman, the employee needed to be under the bus for approximately 5-15 minutes since he was new at the job (employed for 6 weeks).  The deceased employee did not have a company supplied device, e.g., radio, to call in what he was doing or where he was.  There was no area marked off for the bus staging area.

After the bus was checked in by the Truck Inventory Specialist, the Specialist marked the bus to be cut up.  The bus would then be pushed with a spotter to steer the bus to the dismantling area.

There was no formal procedure for the Brookfield Iron & Metal operators working around the buses.  There was no procedure in place to ascertain when an employee was under the bus.  The loader operator did not have a procedure for checking for people when moving cars or buses.  The loader operators were responsible to tidy up the yard which may bring them away from the regular assigned task of moving or stacking certain scrap. 

There was no procedure for them to check areas for people before moving other scrap such as the buses. 

The load operator did not follow elemental heavy equipment operator safety when he failed to G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Look).

BROOKFIELD IRON & METAL LLC

  1. Failed to provide a means of communication between Wilkins Rebuilders Supply’s inventory parts employees and Brookfield’s front-end loader’s operators;
  2. Failed to provide a spotter when plaintiff’s decedent, Arlen J. Bradley, was underneath the school bus;
  3. Failed to provide a system of posting signage or flags to designate vehicles which were being inventoried underneath;
  4. Failed to inform its Brookfield employee, Armando San Martin, that Arlen J. Bradley was working underneath the subject school bus; and
  5. Failed to adequately train its Brookfield employee, Armando San Martin, of potential scrapyard hazards.

ARMANDO SAN MARTIN

  1. Operated said front-end loader without checking the scrapyard area to see if other workers were near or underneath the aforesaid school bus;
  2. Failed to confirm that no workers were under the aforesaid school bus prior to attempting to move it; and
  3. Operated said front-end loader into the aforesaid school bus while plaintiff’s decedent, Arlen J. Bradley, was underneath it.

HORTON SAFETY CONSULTANTS, INC.

  1. Failed to provide a scrapyard safety analysis to both Wilkins Rebuilders Supply employees and Brookfield Iron & Metal employees which would reduce the likelihood of fatalities or injuries to those working in the aforesaid scrapyard.
  2. Failed to appreciate the need to inform the employees of Wilkins Rebuilders Supply and Brookfield Iron & Metal of the potential scrapyard hazards by not recognizing and mandating the use of communication devices in the form of radios/walkie-talkies/phones for front-end loaders and inventorying parts workers;
  3. Failed to address the need for the usage of signage or safety cones or other warning devices for vehicles that are undergoing inventory by workers underneath said vehicles;
  4. Failed to provide a Standard Operating Procedure for the safe inspection of vehicles at said scrapyard; and
  5. Knowing the lack of communication of radios, signs or cones between Wilkins Rebuilders Supply and Brookfield Iron & Metal, failed to design, consult and educate the need for such standard  procedure between employees of Wilkins Rebuilders Supply and Brookfield Iron & Metal.

The tactical issues included that Brookfield Iron & Metal LLC and Armando San Martin initially raised loaned servant as an affirmative defense, claiming Wilkins Rebuilders Supply, Inc. temporarily borrowed Arlen J. Bradley to Brookfield Iron & Metal LLC.  Conversely, the evidence established that Bradley was not borrowed to Brookfield Iron & Metal LLC on the day of the occurrence, but took his orders from Wilkins Rebuilders Supply, Inc. supervisors and was on the Wilkins payroll.

Important Evidence included that The Horton Group, Inc. file was subpoenaed prior to adding it as a party defendant.  It’s Safety Audit in 2012 showed evidence of scrapyard safety training.  In its report of the occurrence, it admitted it conducted Heavy Operator Equipment Training in December 2017.

Arlen J. Bradley left surviving his parents and three adult siblings (total years loss of consortium 236.6).

Case Info: 2019L3504 Mark Bradley, Personal Representative of the Estate of Arlen J. Bradley, deceased, Plaintiff v. Brookfield Iron & Metal, LLC; Armando San Martin; Horton Safety Consultants, Inc., a corporation; and The Horton Group, Inc.

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