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Farley v. Marion Power Shovel Co.

JUNE 24, 1974.

JAMES A. FARLEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

MARION POWER SHOVEL CO., INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon. DOROTHY SPOMER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE CREBS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal from the dismissal of a complaint in the Circuit Court of Williamson County charging the defendants with a violation of the Structural Work Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 48, sec. 60.) The relevant portion of that statute provides:

"All scaffolds, hoists, cranes, stays, ladders, supports or other mechanical contrivances, erected or constructed by any person, firm or corporation in this State for the use in the erection, repairing, alteration, removal or painting of any house, building, bridge, viaduct, or other structure, shall be erected and constructed * * * placed and operated as to give proper and adequate protection to the life and limb of any person or persons employed or engaged thereon * * *."

The plaintiff's complaint alleges that on June 5, 1971, he was an employee of Erection Service, Inc., and was engaged in the erection, construction and assembling of a stripmine shovel which was to be used in the strip mining of coal. The complaint further alleged that the stripmine shovel was owned by the defendants and that the defendants engaged Erection Service, Inc., to assemble the shovel. The plaintiff was allegedly injured when he fell from a drum which was on the stripmine shovel and which was allegedly being used as a scaffold, stay, support or other mechanical contrivance. The complaint states that the defendants wilfully violated the Structural Work Act in that they failed to furnish the plaintiff sufficient ropes or other devices with which to tie himself on to the drum.

The court dismissed the complaint on the ground that the Structural Work Act does not apply to the performance of work upon a movable item of personal property and that a stripmine shovel is such an item.

The sole issue raised by this appeal is whether a stripmine shovel is a "structure" within the meaning of the Structural Work Act. We hold that it is.

The defendants contend that the word "structure" includes only items of real property and not movable personal property. That argument was accepted in Juenger v. Bucyrus-Erie Company (E.D. Ill. 1968), 286 F. Supp. 286. The issue in Juenger was whether a "world-record size stripping shovel" was a "structure" within the meaning of the Structural Work Act. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois applied the rule of ejusdem generis in reaching the conclusion that the word "structure" refers only to real property. The rule of ejusdem generis has been defined as follows:

"In the construction of laws, wills, and other instruments, the `ejusdem generis rule' is, that where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things, by words of a particular and specific meaning, such general words are not to be construed in their widest extent, but are to be held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind or class as those specifically mentioned." Black's Law Dictionary, 608, (4th ed. rev. 1968).

The judge in Juenger reasoned that, since the word "structure" follows the words "house," "building," "bridge" and "viaduct" and because those words describe items permanently fixed to real estate, the word "structure" also refers only to items fixed to real estate.

We disagree with the holding in Juenger and refuse to adopt the reasoning applied in that case.

• 1 In Halberstadt v. Harris Trust & Savings Bank, 55 Ill.2d 121, 127, 302 N.E.2d 64, 67, the supreme court stated:

"It has been determined that the Structural Work Act protects work activities of a particularly hazardous nature and is designed to lessen the extent of the danger * * * We have consistently reiterated this interpretation * * * To effectuate this purpose a liberal construction has been adopted * * * in order to afford broad protection to working men!"

The supreme court has thus mandated a liberal construction of the Structural Work Act and has stated that the primary purpose of the Act is to afford broad protection to men doing work of a hazardous nature. (See also Crafton v. Knight & Associates, Inc., 46 Ill.2d 533, 263 N.E.2d 817; Louis v. Barenfanger, 39 Ill.2d 445, 236 N.E.2d 724; Gannon v. Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Ry. Co., 22 Ill.2d 305, 175 N.E.2d 785.) There is no question that the plaintiff in the instant case was performing work of a hazardous nature. The stripmine shovel from which he allegedly fell is much larger than many buildings, and the complaint alleges that the plaintiff fell a distance of 15 to 20 feet.

It appears that there are no cases in which an Illinois reviewing court has employed the liberal construction rule to extend the definition of "structure" so as to include items of movable personalty. No case other than Juenger, on the other hand, has held that the word "structure" ...


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