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Parizon v. Granite City Steel Co.

MAY 18, 1966.

FRANK PARIZON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

GRANITE CITY STEEL COMPANY, A CORPORATION, AND BOWMAN STEEL CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND M.H. WOLFE AND COMPANY, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court, Third Judicial Circuit of Madison County; the Hon. MICHAEL KINNEY, Judge, presiding. Judgment reversed.

TRAPP, P.J.

The defendants, Granite City Steel Company, a corporation, and Bowman Steel Corporation, a corporation, each appeal from a judgment in the sum of $105,000, entered upon the verdict of a jury. The several post-trial motions of the defendants were denied. The "Scaffold Act" is in issue.

The structure on which plaintiff was working was an addition to an existing building owned by Granite City, designated in the pleading and evidence as the "8 Bay Bar Extension Building," constructed by extending the building apparently in its long dimension. The building was generally fabricated by the use of metal sheets attached to a metal framework.

The first issue raised involves the nature of the roof of the building and its use as a surface for the men working in laying the roof. The Abstract provides minimal data concerning the dimensions. Plaintiff's Exhibit 4 is identified as a photograph of a portion of the building and it shows the roof from the side of the building which appears to be a roof sloping from a ridgepole along the center of the long dimension. A witness for the plaintiff testified that he thought it was about 20 feet from the center ridge to the edge of the roof. Plaintiff testified that he had "heard" that the edge of the roof was 32 feet above the ground. One Bloomquist, a Granite City building inspector, testifying only from the photographic exhibit, estimated that the edge of the roof was 35 or 40 feet above the ground. From the same source he estimated that the pitch of the roof was 4 inches per lateral foot. In his opening statement, plaintiff's counsel stated that the roof slanted but "it was not exceedingly steep."

The roofing material consisted of corrugated sheets which were coated with an asbestos or a bituminous and asbestos material, at least upon the outer or upper surface as the sheets were laid. The sheets of roofing varied in length, and there is no agreement by the witnesses as to such dimensions. It is probable that a sheet 4 feet long was first laid at the lower edge of the roof, a sheet 7 or 8 feet long was laid next above it, and a third sheet 10 or 11 feet long was laid to the center ridge. The sheets were 30 or 33 inches in width and they were attached by screws to metal purlins which extended the length of the building.

In laying the sheets to form the roof, a crew of three men were employed. Two men, standing on the roof of an existing building, fastened the sheets to the purlins. Upon being so fastened, the sheets became a permanent part of the building, as there was nothing more to be done so far as the roof was concerned. The men moved upon these fastened sheets and worked from them to lay the next row or section of the sheets of roofing. Prior to the time of plaintiff's injury, the roofing had been laid for a distance of 50 or 60 feet from the starting point.

The plaintiff, as the third man in the crew, had the duty of carrying the sheets as needed to the men who laid them. Sheets of roofing were stacked according to their respective sizes across the center ridge of the building at a point near the place where the work began, apparently resting upon a frame so that the sheets would lie flat. In performing his duties plaintiff would pick up a sheet and walk along the roof, carrying it to the other men. From his testimony it appears that he walked along the "upper part" of the roof, which we take to mean along the center ridge. No guardrails or other protective devices were in place along the edge of the roof or at any other place.

Plaintiff had been an ironworker for 13 years, climbing ladders, working on beams high in the air, and had had, upon other occasions, engaged in installing roofing of buildings in the manner generally described. He had known that work of this character was to be done and had purchased "some work shoes for that purpose 2 or 3 days before." At the time of the injury he had replaced a man on this particular sheeting crew.

Just prior to the injury, the men engaged in fastening the sheets were some 50 or 60 feet distant from the stacks of sheets. Plaintiff picked up a sheet and started to carry it to the men. He testified that he did not know what caused him to fall, but "my footing got out from under me and I landed on my seat in a sitting position," and he then slipped down the roof and over the edge, suffering severe injury. The two men in his crew saw or heard nothing of this event and learned that plaintiff had fallen when someone shouted from below.

The pleadings in this case consist in the following:

On October 19, 1962, plaintiff filed a suit against Granite City Steel Company, which alleged that plaintiff was working on the roof of the building being erected on the property of the defendant, and that by reason of the negligence of the defendant, the plaintiff fell a great distance from the roof to the ground.

On November 28, 1962, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Granite City Steel Company, Bowman Steel Corporation and M.H. Wolfe & Company. (At the close of plaintiff's evidence, the court directed a verdict in favor of Wolfe.) This complaint alleged that the plaintiff was working on the roof of the building erected under the control of Granite City Steel and that Bowman Steel Corporation was a contractor in charge of phases of the work; that the defendants negligently and carelessly carried out the work in such manner as to cause the plaintiff to fall from the roof of the building to the ground; that in the alternative, defendants, acting together or individually, wilfully violated the provisions of the Structural Work Act of the State of Illinois, and that as a proximate result plaintiff was caused to fall and sustained injury.

On June 6, 1963, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against Granite City Steel Company and Bowman, alleging that the plaintiff was working on a steep roof of a building being erected under the control of Granite City; alleges the language of section 60 of the Structural Work Act; alleges that Bowman was in charge of the erection or building of the roof and that the defendants, jointly or severally, wilfully failed to furnish a scaffold or other mechanical contrivance to protect people working on the roof, and that as a result of the failure to furnish a scaffold, plaintiff fell from the roof sustaining injury.

On July 15, 1964, plaintiff filed a third amended complaint. After rulings by the court at the close of all of the evidence, the case went to the jury upon the Counts as follows:

Count I was directed against Bowman and alleged the provisions of section 60, chap 48 (Ill Rev Stats, 1965), the Structural Work Act; that Bowman was a general contractor for Granite City Steel for purposes of installing a roof on a certain building designated; that plaintiff was an employee of one Kroeger who had been hired by Bowman to lay the roof of the building with roofing material to be furnished by Bowman Steel according to plans and specifications supplied by Bowman and Granite City; that in the work of covering said building, it was necessary for persons employed thereon to use scaffolds, supports or other mechanical contrivances as a place to work while said work was progressing; that when the work commenced the roof of the "old building which was being extended" was used as a scaffold, support or other mechanical contrivance to work from and as the covering was placed on the extended building such covering was used as a scaffold or support for workmen to work on, and that the plaintiff was using such scaffold or support in the performance of his work; and that the defendant, Bowman Steel Company, failed to comply with the provisions of the Structural Work Act in one or more of the following aspects:

"A. By knowingly permitting the use, erection and construction of a scaffold, support or mechanical contrivance that was not erected and constructed in a safe, suitable and proper manner and was not so erected, constructed and placed as to give proper and adequate protection to the life and limb of any person or persons employed or engaged thereon.

"B. By knowingly permitting the use, erection and construction on its premises of a scaffold, support or mechanical contrivance that was not erected and constructed in a safe, suitable and proper manner and was not so erected, constructed and placed as to give proper and adequate protection to the life and limb of any person employed or engaged thereon in that said scaffold was constructed so that the flooring on said scaffold was not level and in fact steep, making it highly likely that people working thereon would be likely to fall a great distance.",

and that as a proximate result of defendant's conduct, plaintiff fell from the roof, sustaining injuries.

Count III of the third amended complaint was directed against Granite City, alleging the provisions of the Structural Work Act and that Granite City was in joint charge of construction, repair or alteration of buildings as owner, that the plaintiff was employed by a subcontractor hired to cover the building and that in covering the building it was necessary for the persons employed thereon to use scaffolds or supports as a place to work while the work was progressing; and the Count continues to duplicate the allegations concerning the use of the roof of the old building and of the new building as the work progressed, and realleged the knowing failure to comply with the provisions of the Act in the language of the allegations against Bowman.

Defendant Bowman asserts in its brief and argument that the primary issue upon the pleadings is whether or not the completed portion of roof upon which plaintiff was working constitutes a scaffold under the Structural Work Act, (c 48, §§ 60-69, Ill Rev Stats, 1965); that such statute does not create a duty to furnish a scaffold; that the defendant Bowman had contracted away the erection of the roof and had no employee working thereon or supervising such work, so that it was not "in charge of" the construction.

The defendant, Granite City urges that the plaintiff failed to alleged or prove any cause of action against it under the provisions of the Act and that the trial court should have directed a verdict in its favor; that the roof on which plaintiff was working and from which he fell was not an instrumentality within the terms of the Act; that plaintiff's injury was not caused by the insufficiency of any scaffold or support within the terms of the ...


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