CHICAGO – A state appeals panel has said ExxonMobil can't be held accountable for severe injuries suffered by a worker in a mishap at the company's Joliet refinery, affirming a Cook County judge's findings that the oil and gas company had limited or no knowledge of the contract employer's allegedly unsafe procedures on the job site.
On Nov. 5, the three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court granted the win to Texas-based ExxonMobil Corp. in its bid to defend against the lawsuit brought by plaintiff Samuel Carrion.
The decision was delivered by Justice Carl Anthony Walker, with justices Mary L. Mikva and John C. Griffin concurring. It was issued as an unpublished order issued under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as precedent.
"A party who retains a general right to supervise an independent contractor's work is not liable for injuries caused by the contractor's unsafe procedures unless the party knew or should have known of the independent contractor's unsafe procedures," Justice Walker wrote in his eight-page judgment.
Justice Carl Anthony Walker
Carrion was severely injured May 6, 2013, while helping to overhaul a 280-foot-tall reactor at the Joliet plant, according to the background portion of the appellate court's judgment. He was employed by Catalyst Handling Resources LLC (CHR).
The ruling states a 6-foot-long oval plate, weighing several thousand pounds was being lifted by a crane to the center of a reactor's ceiling when the nylon sling holding the plate broke. Carrion, one of the workers helping to guide the plate through a second subreactor to the uppermost subreactor, was struck by the falling plate on its way to the floor of the second subreactor, according to the judgment.
In his lawsuit, Carrion alleged that Exxon Mobil negligently oversaw maintenance during the overhaul project. Among other things, Carrion argued that Exxon provided his employer with the incorrect weight of the plates. Testimony at trial, however, indicated the correct weight was known before the lift.
While ExxonMobil generally supervised work done by CHR employees at the Joliet refinery, it didn't know about unsafe procedures leading up to Carrion's injuries, the appellate justices found.
The appellate ruling affirmed an earlier Cook County Circuit Court ruling that granted summary judgment in the case to Exxon Mobil.
"We find no triable issue as to whether CHR knew the weight of the plate when it lifted the plate, or whether a misstatement on the morning of the lift contributed to causing the accident," Walker wrote in the judgment. "Carrion presented no evidence that Exxon knew or should have known that CHR's crew would use an unsafe, inadequate rigging to lift the third plate from the reactor."
According to Cook County court records, Carrion has been represented by attorney Michael W. Rathsack, of Chicago, and attorneys from the firm of Meyers & Flowers, of St. Charles and Chicago.
ExxonMobil has been represented by the firm of Cassiday Schade LLP, of Chicago.