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Crabb v. Robert R. Anderson Co.

SEPTEMBER 25, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FELIX M. BOUSCIO, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


Rehearing denied October 18, 1967.

Plaintiff, Harrell Crabb, was an ironworker employed by Hunter Construction Company, (Hunter). Hunter subcontracted to do structural steel work for Robert R. Anderson Company, (Anderson), general contractors, who were constructing an overpass at the Northwest Expressway and Milwaukee Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois. While on the construction site, Crabb, was injured when a jib fell from a crane and struck him on the head. Plaintiff's claim against Anderson is based on violation of the Structural Work Act (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 48, §§ 60-69). The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the sum of $50,000. Judgment was entered on the verdict and Anderson appeals. No questions are raised as to the pleadings.

Defendant contends (1) that there was no evidence that it had charge of the erection of the viaduct within the meaning of the Structural Work Act; (2) that there was no evidence that the alleged violation of the Structural Work Act was the direct or proximate cause of the occurrence in question; (3) that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence; (4) that improper conduct of plaintiff's attorney was prejudicial; (5) that it was error to allow testimony regarding surgery performed on the plaintiff; and (6) that the damages awarded by the jury were excessive.

On August 26, 1958, Hunter entered into a contract with Anderson to supply labor, equipment and material to erect a bridge at the intersection of the Northwest Expressway and Milwaukee Avenue. One of the pieces of equipment used on the construction site was a Lima 50-ton crane with a 60-foot boom. Attached to the end of the boom, at an angle, was an arm or extension, approximately 20 feet long and called a "jib." The jib weighed 1,500 to 2,000 pounds and was attached to the end of the boom by cables and a pin.

The crane was placed in a "cut" or trench which had been excavated by Anderson. The "cut" was 7/8 of a mile long and 200 to 250 feet wide. The crane was being used to lift and move large steel girders. A girder had just been placed and the crane was moving back to pick up another girder when the jib fell off the boom and struck plaintiff, crushing his hard plastic hat and as one witness described it, "his head was laid open completely."

Anderson insists that it did not have "charge of" the work as required by section 9 of the Scaffold Act to render it liable. (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 48, § 69.) Anderson states in its brief that it was not "in charge of the operation involving the alleged violation which occurred during the erection of the structural steel for the Milwaukee Avenue overpass bridge or viaduct. . . . There is no evidence that anyone other than a Hunter employee directed the operation of the crane. . . . This occurrence arose out of the operation of a crane. The defendant was not operating the crane."

Section 9 of the contract between Hunter and Anderson provided as follows:

"Coordination of Work. The Sub-Contractor agrees to perform the work hereunder diligently, properly and in such manner as the Contractor may determine will best coordinate with the work of the Contractor, other sub-contractors and contractors, and the Contractor shall at all times have access to the work for necessary inspection to insure compliance herewith. The Sub-Contractor shall immediately remove any of his employees objectionable to the Contractor, Owner and other sub-contractors."

The treasurer of Anderson testified with respect to the duties of the job superintendent it employed:

"His main duty was to see that the job ran smoothly, that everything was programmed correctly, and that a sub-contractor would move in at the right time along with the progress of the job."

The ironworker superintendent for Anderson also testified that the duties of Anderson's job superintendent were to oversee the whole job and go around from day to day and make sure every person there was on schedule. Anderson's job superintendent admitted in cross-examination that all the subcontractors were responsible to the general contractor and were instructed when to begin their work.

Clifton Voight was Hunter's job supervisor. He testified that "Anderson had notified the office for Hunter Construction and they had sent me on the job to start the erection of steel." When he arrived on the job, Voight was shown the piers that were ready for placing of the steel girders.

The crane had been spotted in the "cut" Anderson had excavated and there was substantial testimony by several witnesses that it was quite muddy and filled with holes. As the crane lifted and moved the steel girders, it tilted as much as five feet because of the condition of the ground on which it was located. There was conflicting testimony on whether the crane was standing on wooden platforms at the time of the accident. Those ...

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