Although this workplace lawsuit happened in Philadelphia, it could just as easily happen in Austin, Texas, the state with the highest number of on-the-job injuries and deaths.
This was a wrongful-death lawsuit that arose after the death of a Philadelphia man while on a jobsite. The $17 million settlement involved the wife of the deceased worker, a father of five, killed in 2011 when a 300-pound iron hook fell on him, instantly crushing his body.
Adam Nowak had gone to work in the morning, figuring he would be home later. His family never saw him alive again. Nowak’s death was ostensibly caused by the negligent maintenance of an industrial crane that held the large hook that fell on him.
Evidence relating to the case demonstrated that the accident was not the result of a moment of inattention by the crane operator. Instead, safety records showed a history of the company not inspecting its cranes. This meant the accident was not an unforeseeable event, but instead, one that was predictable—even more so when it was also revealed the company had a similar accident in 2004 when they were told to upgrade safety limit switches. The company did not upgrade the switches.
This is consistent with many construction accident cases. Tragedies rarely happen because of one sudden event. They usually happen because the contractors involved ignore safety rules and regulations, including their own policies and procedures, and knowingly make workers take shortcuts. Construction accidents aren’t usually sudden events; they’re usually the result of long-term problems.
This case did not make it to court, as the company, Veolia Energy’s Schuylkill Steam Plant, opted to settle out of court, a step usually taken if the defendant feels their case is not strong enough to withstand the scrutiny of a jury at trial. The company and crane operator paid $15 million, and the firm contracted to repair and inspect the crane paid $1.5 million, while the general contractor for the jobsite paid $550,000.
But for the negligence of the worker’s employer, he would still be alive today.
If you have been injured on the job, make contact with a knowledgeable Austin workplace injury lawyer. Each state has its own set of rules relating to injuries on the job, and you need to know how your situation may be addressed in terms of legal compensation for any injuries sustained.