In a recent Maryland wrongful death case, a tragic construction accident resulted in the death of a worker who was rigging a modular unit. The decedent’s estate brought a negligence and wrongful death action against several defendants, including another subcontractor assisting with the construction. After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed the decision in a July 28, 2021 opinion.
The decedent was a construction rigger for a subcontractor working on a new building on a school campus. The building was constructed using prefabricated modular structures, which were lowered by a crane into a concrete foundation and welded together. As the rigger on site, the decedent was responsible for planning the lifting configuration of the modular units. Before the operation began, the defendant expressed safety concerns about the use of nylon straps and other equipment to secure and lift the unit into the foundation. The operation proceeded as planned, however, and the unit was lifted while the decedent guided the crane operator. After signaling to stop, the decedent moved to release the ratchet strap underneath the unit. A few seconds later, the nylon straps severed, causing the unit to fall and trap the decedent.
To succeed on a Maryland negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove that he was owed a duty by the defendant, the defendant breached such duty, the plaintiff was injured, and the defendant’s breach proximately caused the injuries. Even if all elements of negligence are proven, a plaintiff will be completely barred from recovery if the defendant establishes that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.
The issues on appeal were whether the defendant’s actions proximately caused the decedent’s death, and whether the decedent was contributorily negligent.
After reviewing the record, the appeals court concluded that there was no evidence that the defendant’s actions or inaction had caused the modular unit to fall. The court explained that the defendant’s role was contractually limited to providing assistance after the modular unit was placed in the foundation wall. Moreover, the decedent’s subcontractor was responsible for the rigging, and his position as lead rigger gave him the authority to make decisions about the configuration.
The court went on to find that the decedent’s actions were negligent and constituted the proximate cause of his injuries. The undisputed evidence was that the decedent had determined the rigging configuration, the use of nylon straps, and the placement of the ratchet strap. The court also noted that the danger associated with putting a body part under a suspended load would be recognized by a reasonable person. The appeals court therefore affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendant.
If you or a family member suffered injuries caused by the negligence of another person or business, you may have legal recourse. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury lawyers can explain your options after an accident. We represent plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims, premises liability actions, and many other personal injury cases. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at (301) 441-2022 or submitting our online contact form.