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Apr 2, 2013

Equipment Misuse and Lack of Safety Inspections Result in $1.7 Million Verdict

Mobile, Ala. – On April 1, 2013, a Mobile County, Alabama jury returned a $1 million compensatory damages verdict against All Crane Rental of Alabama, TEK Aerial Lifts, and SMP Welding. The jury also awarded an additional $700,000 in punitive damages against All Crane. The jury found that the employees of SMP Welding damaged a manlift while it was in their custody and that TEK Aerial Lifts and All Crane Rental of Alabama failed to perform required safety inspections when they became due.

On October 30, 2009, Christopher “Brock” Hill was using a manlift to install an overhead crane at the ThyssenKrupp Plant in Calvert, Alabama. While he was in the basket of the manlift and nearly 80 feet in the air, the wire ropes in the manlift catastrophically failed. The wire rope failure caused the boom of the manlift to suddenly retract, which resulted in Brock Hill falling 25 feet. Upon impact, Brock’s right femur snapped in half, his head hit the control panel in the platform, he lost consciousness, and he collapsed. When Brock regained consciousness, he was still suspended 60 feet in the air, trapped in the basket and unable to move. It took rescue crews 45 minutes to get him safely to the ground.

Mr. Hill was represented by Lucy E. Tufts and Robert L. Mitchell, attorneys with Cunningham Bounds, LLC. At trial, they introduced evidence that proved that SMP Welding used the manlift to push a 90,000 lb. girder approximately 10-15 feet – even though such action was expressly prohibited by the manlift’s Operation and Safety Manual, by the lease agreement, and by SMP’s own corporate safety policies. This abuse caused internal components of the manlift to become misaligned, which led to a progressive deterioration of the wire ropes over the next three months. Despite the fact that there were eyewitnesses who reported the abuse, the manlift was never inspected to ensure it was safe to operate.

Mr. Hill’s attorneys also proved that TEK Aerial Lifts and All Crane Rental of Alabama failed to conduct multiple routine safety inspections on the manlift during the three months following the misuse. Any one of these routine inspections would have revealed the misalignment and the progressive deterioration of the wire ropes. While All Crane had conducted these safety inspections in the past, the evidence showed that All Crane eliminated the inspections in order to reduce the amount of overtime it was paying to its mechanics.

“All Crane put profits over people when it decided not to conduct the required safety inspections on its equipment. We are hopeful that the jury’s verdict will deter other companies from compromising the safety of the public for the sake of making more money,” said Lucy E. Tufts of Cunningham Bounds.

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