Illinois Court Upholds $22M Judgment Against Contractor for Carpenter’s Permanent Injuries

McCormick PlaceA catastrophic accident at a Chicago convention center left a carpenter with permanent brain injuries after a fall off the back of a motorized cart. Those injuries led a Cook County jury to award the man an injury verdict in excess of $22 million. The contractor that the jury held liable launched an appeal, but the First District Appellate Court concluded that the defendant had a duty to all of the contractors’ employees, and it failed to meet this duty when it allowed the workers to use defective carts.

The injured man in this case was a carpenter who worked for Coastal International, Incorporated. In 2007, Lindroth was working on a Coastal project taking place at McCormick Place, a large convention center in Chicago. During the setup of a trade show at the center, Lindroth was standing on the back of a moving motorized cart when the driver swerved to avoid colliding head-on with an oncoming vehicle traveling down the same lane of the same ramp. The crash threw Lindroth from the cart and caused him to suffer very serious head injuries that will require 24-hour care and therapy for the rest of his life.

Lindroth’s mother, as his guardian, pursued two entities for her son’s injuries. She named the facility’s owner, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, arguing that it was culpable for multiple reasons. The person who had directed a southbound vehicle into Lindroth’s northbound lane without first checking to see if it was safe to do so was a Metropolitan employee. Additionally, Metropolitan was legally liable for allowing the use of unsafe carts like the one in which Lindroth was riding. She also sued Global Experience Specialists, Incorporated, a contractor responsible for for setting up and tearing down the show’s exhibits. Global was obligated to ensure the safety of the entire workplace, as well as ensure compliance with safety rules, and it had fallen short of that duty by allowing the use of the defective and unsafe carts, she argued.

The jury in the case largely sided with the mother against Global. Although the jury found Lindroth 35% responsible for the accident, it found Global 65% responsible and assessed Lindroth’s total damages at more than $34 million. Even after subtracting for Lindroth’s 35% fault, the damages award was still in excess of $22 million. Metropolitan was adjudged to be immune from liability under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act.

Global appealed, requesting a new trial, but the appeals court upheld the judgment. Global had, as part of its contract with the company putting on the trade show, agreed to to be the show’s “official service contractor.” That meant that Global had the duty to ensure a safe working environment for all workers working on the trade show floor. Global undertook numerous steps in furtherance of this task of ensuring safety, including inspecting the carts. Based upon all of this proof of actions taken by Global regarding site safety, Global’s argument on appeal that it did not have a legal duty to ensure safety was not persuasive.

Global was also not persuasive in arguing that, if it did owe anyone a duty, that duty did not extend to other contractors’ employees like Lindroth. The evidence at trial showed that Global’s responsibilities extended to all “exhibitor approved contractors.” Coastal was one of the approved contractors on the job, so Global had an obligation to ensure a safe work environment for Lindroth. In other words, the mother did not err in pursuing Global for its safety failures, the trial court did not err in holding Global liable, and Global was not entitled to a new trial or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

When a loved one has suffered catastrophic and permanent injuries at a work site, it is a difficult time. You undoubtedly have things on your mind, and your injury case may not be first among them. But delays can be harmful. Experienced legal counsel can help your family by promptly handling the legal work related to seeking the compensation you deserve. The skilled Chicago construction accident attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck can help your family at every step along the way. For a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

How a Tight Fit Creates Lethal Dangers, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, May 25, 2016

Workers Rights & Safety in Jeopardy, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Feb. 29, 2016

Photo credit: Игорь Феденко at Wikimedia Commons.