Sure, you can probably slide by without reading every piece of literature inside that new iPhone 11 box. Businesses, however, would do well to learn from French & Parrello Associates (“FPA”), after a New Jersey appellate panel affirmed they had failed to take the proper precautions to prevent a contractor’s brain injury.
On May 3, 2013, Eric Austin, a Danco General Contracting employee, was removing copper and brass piping at a demolition site in Morris Plains, NJ. This job required Austin to conduct work on a catwalk. While working, Austin fell over the rails, hitting the concrete floor eighteen feet below. He was diagnosed with five skull fractures, severe traumatic brain injury, and nerve damage. It is believed that he is permanently disabled and therefore unable to return to work.
FPA, an engineering and environmental services firm, was contracted by Danco to create and carry out a safety plan for the site. Austin claimed fall prevention was included in FPA’s responsibility. FPA argued that it was only responsible for environmental hazards, such as toxic chemicals. The jury may have accepted FPA’s claim, were it not for the devil in the details.
A clause in the contract between FPA and Danco protected FPA from responsibility for “construction” safety and practices. The worksite where Austin was injured, however, was a demolition site, a fact which the clause failed to address. Additionally, the “Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan,” which FPA prepared for this job, not only mentioned “Environmental” hazards, but also “General Demolition” hazards such as “Slip, Trip, [and] Fall.” In the end, the jury found FPA 73% responsible for Eric Austin’s injury, awarding $6.1 million.
StraightforWARD Legal Advice:
It is essential to initially conduct a comprehensive inspection of all potential hazards on the jobsite. When drafting the applicable contractual provision, ensure that all potential hazards are addressed when attempting to preclude responsibility for jobsite hazards. For more information, contact attorney Barry Brownstein at email@example.com or 215-647-6602.