Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling that highlights the types of legal challenges an injured worker can face in seeking to hold a third-party liable for workplace injuries.
The case involved an employee of a third-party contractor of Union Pacific Railroad whose legs had to be amputated in 2006 as a result of an injury that occurred while he was working on the removal of an abandoned railroad bridge. After the accident, the worker filed a complaint against the contractor that purchased the bridge from the railroad and employed the worker’s employer for the removal job.
Sources don’t specifically mention it, but it is presumed that the injured worker was able to receive workers’ compensation following the accident. He did, however, file a complaint against the scrap contractor, adding the railroad as a defendant. The worker alleged that the railroad was negligent in that it knew about dangerous conditions on the work site that led to his injury, but did nothing to address them.
The worker specifically alleged that the railroad knew about the presence of the steel plate that propelled him into a falling girder, severing his legs. He also accused the railroad of failing to lay out an orderly demolition plan and supervise the work, as well as failing to exercise reasonable care in hiring the scrap contractor.
Before the decision came to the Supreme Court, it was ruled the case should go back to trial so that a jury could determine whether the railroad retained control of any part of the scrap job. If it did, it could be held liable for the worker’s injuries.
In our next post, we’ll look at what the court ruled in this case.