Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

Expert testimony is essential in many Maryland car accident cases. Under Maryland law, expert testimony may be admissible if the court rules that the expert testimony will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to decide a fact at issue in the case. Under Rule 5-702, a court must decide whether the witness is qualified as an expert based on the witness’s knowledge, experience, education, skill, or training, whether the expert testimony is appropriate, and whether there is a sufficient factual basis for the testimony.

Expert testimony is essential in cases where an issue is beyond the “common knowledge” of a layperson. One recent decision from a federal court of appeals shows a trial court’s improper exclusion of expert testimony doomed a plaintiff’s case, resulting in a judgment in favor of the defendants.

In that case, the plaintiff was hit by an SUV in a construction-affected area. The defendant, an architectural firm, was hired to redesign traffic in the area to safely control the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians in the area. A construction company installed a temporary concrete barrier along one part of the sidewalk. The pedestrian was crossing the street in the area and was hit head-on by a vehicle, rendering him a quadriplegic. The plaintiff filed suit against entities involved in the construction project, including the architectural firm.

In Maryland, plaintiffs in personal injury cases need to prove four things to be successful:  the defendant had a duty of care; the defendant breached that duty through an act or an omission; the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and real damages were sustained. These cases, also called tort cases, are separate from contract cases, in which a party can sue another party for breaching a contract. Sometimes, however, a Maryland resident is injured because of the negligent actions of another person, with whom they contracted. This area of law can become difficult to figure out.

For example, take the facts of a recent appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiffs, a couple, entered into a construction contract in 2009 with the defendant contractor to build a new house. Shortly after the house was finished, the plaintiffs discovered leaks in the doors, which allowed rainwater to get into the house. The contractors fixed the leaks as they were discovered but did not look for mold. Four years later, the plaintiffs and their four children, living in the house, experienced medical symptoms and brought in an inspector, who discovered mold in the basement below where the leaks had occurred. In addition, the doors were still leaking. The contractor tried but failed to fix these leaks and remediate the mold, applying anti-microbial solution and attempting to clean mold where it was found, but it did not look for additional mold. Later, mold was discovered in the drywall of the house, and the contractor again attempted to deal with it, although the mold continued to grow. Finally, the plaintiffs and their children abandoned the home due to the mold and the resulting medical symptoms and sued the contractor in tort for the injuries that they sustained.

Maryland law allows plaintiffs to bring tort claims against defendants with which they contracted, as long as the damages sustained are not purely economic and based upon contractual duties. For example, the plaintiffs could not bring a tort claim against the defendant contractor for failing to build the fence properly and ask for damages in the amount that it would cost to fix the fence. That case would have to be handled through a contract claim because the damages are purely economic and only come from the contract in which the defendant agreed to fix the fence. In contrast, the plaintiffs here would be able to bring suit because they suffered real medical injuries and symptoms from the mold, and the defendants were negligent in failing to find and clean the mold.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought by a man whose finger was severed while working with a construction loader. The lawsuit was filed against the company that leased the loader to his employer and required the court to determine whether a construction loader is a dangerous instrumentality. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant lessor could be liable under that state’s vicarious liability laws because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality. If you have sustained an accident on a construction site, contact a Maryland construction accident attorney.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was contracted to help clear a vacant lot of debris. The lot’s owner leased a construction loader from the defendant equipment company to assist the plaintiff and his team by clearing the lot.

Evidently, at one point the plaintiff climbed inside the loader to pack down loose debris. While the plaintiff was inside, another employee used the loader to pick up and deposit a large tree stump. As the stump came into the loader, it crushed the plaintiff’s finger.

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A recent District of Columbia federal district court case, Bell v. BUILDERS, Dist. Ct., Dist. Col. (2013), gives a helpful overview of the concept of Assumption of Risk as it relates to personal injury claims.

Construction had begun in February of 2009, and plaintiff elected to remain in her house during the construction. One morning in May of 2009, the plaintiff went down stairs in order to investigate a loud sound she had heard. She turned on the lights and walked through her kitchen to look out the sliding glass door into her backyard. Seeing several possums in the backyard, she decided to retrieve her camera from the living room to take some pictures. When she returned with her camera and opened the sliding glass door, she leaned out to take a picture of the animals, when her left ankle became twisted up in the drop cloth on the floor, causing her to fall out the door, and to suffer, “severe, painful, and permanent injuries.”

The plaintiff’s lawsuit stemmed from her assertion that by covering her kitchen floor with a drop cloth, the defendant construction company created a “dangerous and defective condition” that caused her to slip and fall and sustain her injuries. The defendants motioned for summary judgment, asserting the defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk.

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Howard County police have released information regarding the traffic accident that left one 40 year old highway worker from Baltimore dead.

Police say the man, who was a state highway contractor, was closing a lane of state Route 216 in the Scaggsville area when he was hit by a Chevrolet Malibu. The man was reportedly wearing a reflective shirt as he placed cones in the road just prior to the collision. The worker was later pronounced dead on the scene.

According to authorities, the juvenile driver of the Malibu remained at the scene in order to cooperate with the investigation. So far no charges have been filed.

An administrator of the Maryland State Highway Administration released a statement expressing condolences to the victim’s family, and reminding drivers to reduce speeds and drive attentively in order to keep highway workers safe.

According to one report, in 2011 alone 688 people were injured and three were killed as a result of Maryland work zone related crashes. Nationwide, it is estimated that over 1,000 people are killed each year in work zone related crashes, with a majority of the victims being motorists or their passengers.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash is ongoing.

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A 61-year-old man was involved in a tragic accident that occurred at the Fred Weber rock quarry in Maryland Heights Missouri last Wednesday, which left the man dead. He was a 24-year veteran with the company.

According to reports, at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday March 27, a routine rock-blasting operation caused an accident in the north quarry which resulted in a major rock slide, trapping the man below many tons of rock. Video footage shows the immense amount of rock that came crashing down.

According to a spokesperson for the company, the man was confirmed to have been killed by a routine rock blasting operation, when he was buried under several tons of rock.

Shortly after the accident occurred, EMS arrived on the scene to try and rescue the man, and fire crews were present to investigate the cause of the accident. Fred Weber Inc. said in a statement that it had notified the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and that it plans to cooperate fully with their investigation.

Accidents such as this one are not uncommon in construction site and related activities. These types of practices are considered ultrahazardous because they carry such a high associated risk. While not all construction site jobs pose as much danger as in this case, because of the nature of the work, there is still a great potential for workers to suffer from a personal injury or wrongful death.

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A 27-year-old worker was killed and another man hurt in a Maryland construction accident on Friday. The incident took place at a work site at the Arundel Mills Mall lot.

According to officials, Leon Ray Sax was killed when a precast concrete wall collapsed. He had been standing in a mechanical arm’s bucket lift at the time and when the wall, which was approximately 30 feet tall and consisted of 25 tons of precast concrete, fell he became trapped. Also injured in the Anne Arundel construction accident was Darbin Suazo-Jimenez, who sustained life-threatening injuries.

The Hanover, Maryland construction site is going to be the location of a slots machine parlor and entertainment complex. The company building the complex is Cordish Cos. The general contractor for the project is Commercial Interiors Inc.

Many Maryland work zone accidents are avoidable, as long as workers, motorists, and contracting companies take the necessary precautions. For example, contractors need to make sure that construction zones are well marked and easily visibly. Workers should undergo safety training, be given the tools they need to make their work sites safer, and follow the safety rules. Motorists should pay attention and slow down when driving close to a work zone.

Driving too fast is the leading contributing factor of work zone accidents, with rubbernecking also another leading cause. Both workers and motorists are at risk of getting hurt in work zone accidents.

On June 26, 2007, Near Frederick, Maryland, state highway worker Rick Moser was killed when he was hit by a truck and thrown 175 feet while working in a highway work zone. Trucker Brian McCully was charged with negligent driving. He paid a $280 fine. The Motor Vehicle Administration gave him three points for the negligent driving charge. However, since this was a traffic citation, the truck driver didn’t have to go to court. The Moser family later filed a $2.5 million Frederick, Maryland wrongful death lawsuit against McCully for striking Rick with his Chevrolet truck.

Last February, Rick’s wife, Laurie, testified on House Bill 172 that calls for making it a misdemeanor to recklessly contribute to an accident in a highway work zone. The bill would impose a $1,000 fine and time in prison for up to 90 days. In 2007, Maryland police reported 2,250 highway work zone accidents in the state resulting in 11 deaths and 1,140 injuries.

Work Zone Awareness week was held earlier this month in the United States. Traffic safety officials want people to be especially aware of the dangers of careless driving in a work zone accident because spring is often the beginning of the construction season and the time when many motorists get back on the roads.

Work Zone Awareness Kicks Off, ABC2News.com, April 7, 2009
Widow requests tougher law for reckless driving, FrederickNewsPost.com, February 5, 2009
Family of highway worker killed in June files $2.5 million wrongful death suit, FrederickNewsPost.com, September 13, 2007
Related Web Resources:

National Work Zone Awareness Week 2009

US Department of Transportation

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In Anne Arundel County, a crane operator suffered serious injuries when he was crushed by falling machinery. The Maryland crane accident occurred last Thursday in Annapolis at a development where another worker got hurt in a similar accident in 2008.

The worker, 46, was sitting in the crane’s compartment and getting ready to lift cooling and heating units onto a gym roof at the Annapolis Towne Centre when a pulley and other components fell. The falling objects smashed onto the operator compartment. Workers rushed to remove the worker from the accident site and he was flown by Medevac to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Just 10 months ago, Denis Umanzor, a 44-year-old Maryland worker, sustained fatal injuries when part of a crane fell on him. That work accident occurred right by the gym where this latest accident took place. Umanzor became trapped and was suspended some 200 feet in the air where he died.

This latest crane accident comes just as Maryland regulators are getting ready for a public hearing on stricter crane operator safety standards to prevent crane accidents from happening. Currently, the state lacks standardized training procedures and rules for crane operators.

In the last year, a number of people have gotten hurt in US crane accidents. In March, seven people died when a giant crane fell onto a townhouse. Soon after, two other people died and five victims sustained injuries when a portion of another crane fell 30 floors, smashing into a home.

Crane accidents resulting in serious injuries can occur for a number of reasons, including:

• Failed rigging
• Falling loads
• Errors during crane assembly
• Mistakes during dismantling
• Collapsed crane
• Worker inexperience
• Inadequate safety measures
• Operator error
• Overloaded cranes

Crane operators, construction workers, and innocent bystanders who are injured in crane accidents may be entitled to personal injury compensation from liable parties. A worker injured on the job cannot sue his employer, but there may be third parties who can be held responsible in civil court.

Worker critically injured in Arundel crane accident, Baltimore Sun, February 9, 2009
Worker critically injured in Parole crane accident, Hometown Annapolis, February 5, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Crane Accidents

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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In Baltimore County Circuit Court, Judge Susan Souder awarded Sandra Lee Meade $250,000 for personal injuries she sustained in a pedestrian accident in an Arbutus traffic construction zone more than 5 years ago. The amount is part of a high-low agreement made between Meade and general contractor Dick Corp, with a “low” of $250,000 and a “high” of $2 million.

Meade sustained traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries after she was hit by a car while crossing Westland Boulevard, which was undergoing construction, on December 3, 2003. She now lives in a Maryland nursing home.

While police placed the fault for the pedestrian accident with Meade for crossing the street illegally—she tried crossing the street diagonally to catch the bus to work—Meade’s Maryland car accident lawyer accused Dick Corp. of failing to put in place a maintenance of traffic plan. He noted the “willy-nilly” placement of barricades and lines that were incorrectly painted on the road.

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