In August 2016, a jury awarded a man’s family nearly $27 million in a workers’ compensation case after he lost his life when he fell 30 feet while at work and suffered a head injury after part of a wall collapsed. The case highlighted the importance of shared liability, workers’ compensation involvement and responsibility in on-the-job accidents.
The 30-year-old man was on site on Aug. 2, 2011, at a wastewater facility in Playa del Rey when the accident occurred. He was working for a general contractor, USS Cal Builders, hired by the city of Los Angeles. USS Cal Builders then retained the services of Atlas Construction Supply, Inc. While on top of a structure on location, he fell to his death. The family filed a lawsuit, naming Atlas Construction Supply, Inc. as the defendant.
The plaintiffs claimed that Atlas Construction Supply, Inc. was negligent in the use of unsupported wall forms, which resulted in the accident. Several experts, including a structural engineer, testified on their behalf. The defendant countered that they were not responsible but blamed the city, USS Cal Builders and a crane operator. They also called a general contractor and structural engineer to the stand to testify.
In settlement negotiations prior to the trial, the plaintiffs asked for the maximum policy limits for Atlas. The company countered with $200,000, eventually offering $1 million. They increased that amount to $2 million in the middle of proceedings and finally offering $3 million prior to closing arguments.
The jury concurred unanimously when assigning liability, with 45 percent going to Cal Builders and 55 percent assigned to Atlas. Of the nearly $27 million award, the portion assigned to Atlas was $16.3 million. The crane operator settled out of court with the family for $600,000 prior to the trial.
However, due to the restrictions of workers’ compensation laws in the state, the family cannot collect in a lawsuit from the employer, Cal Builders. Instead, workers’ compensation will pay monthly benefits to the family from the company. Since Atlas shares liability in the accident, the family can collect from them — in this case, 55 percent of the total or $16.3 million.
After an on-the-job accident or death, more than one party might be liable, thus increasing a possible payout in the event of a civil lawsuit. Contact our office to secure competent legal representation that might help you win the benefits that are rightfully yours.