Competent Chicago construction site accident lawyers must stay abreast of Illinois law concerning general contractor liability. An Illinois appellate court held that a general contractor owed a duty of care to an ironworker employed by a subcontractor who injured his back while unloading bolts at a Chicago condominium development because the contractor retained sufficient control over the use of the crane on the construction site. Garcia v. Wooton Construction, Ltd., No. 1-07-1883 (1st Dist. Dec. 29, 2008).
In August 2002, a condominium complex known as “Kingsbury on the Park” in Chicago, Illinois was being developed. The plaintiff, an ironworking apprentice for a subcontractor, was in the process of unloading a crane basket containing approximately 10 kegs of bolts, each keg weighing between 100 and 200 pounds. As the plaintiff was handing the kegs to another ironworker, he felt something “pop” in his back and he experienced severe pain.
The plaintiff was eventually diagnosed with a herniated disc, and underwent surgery to repair the herniated disc. Less than two years later, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the owner and general contractor at the construction site.
The plaintiff alleged the defendant, general contractor, was negligent in (1) failing to provide a crane or other mechanical devce to move the kegs of bolts and (2) permitting the plaintiff to move the kegs manually where they knew or should have known a crane or other device was necessary.
The general contractor filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it did not owe a duty to the plaintiff because it did not retain control over the plaintiff’s work under section 414 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The general contractor also argued that the plaintiff could not establish proximate causation. The trial court granted the general contractor’s motion for summary judgment.
The appellate court reversed, finding that the general contractor “retained control”. Section 414 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts provides that “one who entrusts work to an independent contractor, but who retains the control of any part of the work, is subject to liability for physical harm to others for whose safety the employer owes a duty to exercise reasonable care, which is caused by his failure to exercise his control with reasonable care.”
The court found that the general contractor had ultimate authority over the use of the only crane on the job site. Therefore, the general contractor “had a duty of care to reasonably exercise its control over the use of the crane so as not to expose the [plaintiff] to foreseeable danger of harm.”
Furthermore, the court found that two other questions were for the jury to decide: (1) whether the general contractor breached its duty of care; and (2) whether the general contractor’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.