BY: Brendan Kirby - al.com MOBILE, Alabama – A Daphne man who suffered severe injuries in an accident during the construction of the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Calvert won a $1.7 million civil judgment this week against trio of companies.
According to testimony in Mobile County Circuit Court, Christopher “Brock” Hill was using a manlift to install an overhead crane nearly 80 feet in the air on Oct. 30, 2009, when wire ropes in the equipment failed and sent him plunging 25 feet.
The boom of the manlift retracted like an accordion. During the fall, the femur bone in Brock’s right leg snapped in half, his head hit the control panel and he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he was suspended 60 feet in the air, unable to move inside the basket until rescue workers freed him 45 minutes later.
The jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages against three companies -- All Crane Rental of Alabama, TEK Aerial Lifts, and SMP Welding. The jury also ordered All Crane, which owned the manlift, to pay an additional $700,000 in punitive damages.
Lucy Tufts, an attorney with Cunningham Bounds LLC in Mobile, said the evidence indicated that All Crane failed to maintain regular inspections of the manlift, which would have turned up the damage.
“It would have been painfully obvious,” she said.
Jeff Luther, an attorney for All Crane and TEK, said he was preparing post-trial motions and considering an appeal.
“Obviously, we were disappointed in the verdict, and we’re reviewing the trial record now,” he said.
Tufts said her client’s injuries required major surgery, including the insertion of a steel rod from his hip to his knee. She said he managed to return to work on modified duty, using a cane, a little more than two months after the accident.
The plaintiffs faulted SMK, a subcontractor involved in the construction. Tufts said the evidence showed that the manlift was rated for a horizontal load of 89 pounds but that the company was using the device to push rolling girders weighting some 90,000 pounds even though it was expressly prohibited by the safety manual.
“They were taking a shortcut and pushing it out of the way,” she said.
Tufts said All Crane, meanwhile, was not conducting maintenance inspections every three months or 150 engineer hours as the schedule called for. She said a former mechanic for the company testified that supervisors halted the inspections to save on overtime costs.