This case concerns three ironworkers who were employed by a construction company to help build the roof on a baseball stadium designed by a famous architect. Construction was running behind schedule due to the wait for specially made pipes that had to undergo rapid prototyping and then irregular pipe bending using hydroforming in accordance to the stadium’s unique shape. The construction company had leased a large crane to use in the project and the ironworkers were supposed to guide a section of the stadium’s roofing into place from an aerial basket that was suspended from the crane. The piece of roof they were supposed to put in place was very wide. The minimum safe wind speed for an attempted lift of a roof section that size was eleven miles per hour. The wind gusts at the stop of the stadium were thirty miles per hour on the day they were working. Several construction workers expressed concern about the wind gusts that day but the construction company ignored their concerns, emphasizing the need to catch up to the time schedule. The construction company did not have clear warnings about the effect of wind speed on suspended loads and the site supervisor did not make sure that wind-sail calculations were performed prior to lifting the roof section. The crane collapsed because of the wind and knocked the basket holding the ironworkers to the ground. All three workers were killed. Their widows brought a wrongful death suit against the construction company.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Can a construction company be held liable for the deaths of three construction workers if the company did not follow safety procedures during a construction project?
Expert Witness Response
Even though a construction site is a generally dangerous area, a construction company may be liable for injuries or death of construction workers if the company acts in a way that subjects workers to a substantial risk of death or great bodily harm. This means that if a construction company should have reasonably known that its failure to follow certain safety standards subjects its workers to a substantial risk of death or great bodily harm it may be liable for an injury or death that results from this conduct. In this case, the construction company is probably liable for the deaths of the ironworkers because it failed to have clear or sufficiently detailed warnings about the effect of wind speed on suspended loads. The company had a duty to protect the lives of its workers by performing wind-sail calculations prior to lifting the roof section. Since the company failed to do this, the company breached its duty to provide a safe work environment for the ironworkers and was negligent because they should have known that going ahead with the lift would pose a substantial risk of harm to the ironworkers.