| Henning Schlottmann (User:H-stt) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
CHICAGO - Connecticut-based construction crane maker Terex has staved off a $248 million lawsuit brought by the family of a civil engineer who was severely injured when the arm of construction crane fell on him in 2014 while on the site of a bridge project for the recent reconstruction of Interstate 90 in Elgin.
On July 13, a Cook County jury unanimously found in favor of Terex Corporation in the lawsuit brought by the family of Rudolph Das, siding with the crane manufacturer’s contention neither it nor its crane could be blamed in the accident.
The verdict ended a nearly month-long trial at the Daley Center in Chicago.
Anthony Monaco | Swanson Martin & Bell
Das’ wife, Jona, had filed suit on behalf of Das and herself in 2014 in Cook County court, seeking to collect as much as $48 million in compensatory damages, and an additional $200 million in punitive damages, from Terex.
The claim centered on injuries Das suffered on Dec. 1, 2014, when the 20-foot jib – or horizontal bar – of a construction crane made by Terex fell on him while he was working on the Jane Addams Tollway bridge over the Fox River in west suburban Elgin.
Das worked as an engineer for K&S Engineers, of Indiana.
According to the complaint and published reports, Das suffered severe injuries, including to his legs and a head injury, and was in a multi-week coma. He spent nearly three weeks in intensive care at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to published reports.
The Das family’s legal action also included claims against contractors Imperial Crane Services and Kenny Construction Company, among others.
In court documents, Das’ attorneys with the firm of Morici, Figlioli & Associates, of Chicago, asserted the accident could be attributed to faulty design of the crane. Specifically, their claims focused on the strength of U-bolts used to stow the jib when the crane was not in use. According to court documents, the plaintiffs alleged the cranes had suffered other incidents as recently as 2013, yet Terex had not warned of the risk or problems before allowing Imperial to deploy the crane on the Tollway construction site in 2014.
Terex conceded there had been prior “incidents” with its cranes, but said its investigations showed none of those incidents were similar to the accident that caused Das’ injuries.
Terex, represented by attorneys with the firm of Swanson Martin & Bell, of Chicago, had responded to the accusations by blaming the crane’s failure on the way it was used in the field by Imperial and K&S Engineering.
In this case, Terex asserted the contractors had used its cranes to deploy a “vibratory hammer,” attached to the crane’s hoist rope, to drive retaining structures for the new bridge into the Fox River bed.
Terex claimed the repeated use of the hammer was “an unforeseeable misuse that caused violent vibration to travel through the crane, which caused obvious damage to the crane over multiple months.”
“Despite the obvious and extensive mechanical damage to the crane, and management’s written warnings that someone might die from the continued misuse of the crane, workers continued their misuse of the crane until a U-bolt securing a bracket holding the jib fractured,” Terex wrote in a motion for summary judgment, filed in January 2019.
Cook County Judge Christopher Lawler had rejected that request for summary judgment, ruling on May 10 to allow the case to advance to trial.
Judge Lawler at that time said the “voluminous record connects the jib at issue to other U-bolt failures and similar accidents” and “based on the record, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that Terex adequately tested, warned against, and corrected the allegedly defective jibs.”
Imperial Crane settled with the Das family in early June 2019. The terms of that settlement are confidential, according to a court order entered June 6, the day before the trial began.
In a release following the verdict, attorney Anthony J. Monaco, of Swanson Martin & Bell, said the verdict came “despite the odds and incredible sympathy involved” in the case for Das.
“Over the past five years I became so personal invested in this matter because I truly believed that the crane was safely designed,” Monaco said in a statement in the release from his firm. “The false accusations of willful and wanton misconduct could not go unanswered.”
In the release, Terex said it was “committed to safety – whether you work for us, supply us, use our equipment, or receive our services. Terex is proud and honored that the citizens of Cook County, after having heard the facts and evidence, found that the accusations of product defect and reckless conduct were untrue.”
In addition to Monaco, Terex has been represented in the action by Swanson Martin & Bell attorneys Michael A. McCaskey, Patrick P. Clyder, David J. Welch, Nicole E. O’Toole, Joseph D.D. Sweeny and Edward J. Keating.