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Sansonetti v. Archer Laundry





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DAVID A. CANEL, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 11, 1977.

Plaintiffs, Sansonetti and Kerr, brought separate actions to recover damages sustained due to the alleged negligence and wilful misconduct of defendant Archer Laundry, Inc., (hereinafter "Archer"), and its employees Edwin J. Bylica and Charles R. Cox. Both suits arose from a single accident which occurred on September 27, 1969, as Sansonetti and plaintiff's decedent, Louis E. Kerr, were employed doing maintenance work on the building and premises of St. Ignatius High School in Chicago, Illinois. Plaintiffs also included in their respective suits counts charging St. Ignatius High School (hereinafter "St. Ignatius") with violation of the provisions of the Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, par. 60 et seq.) and negligence for failure to maintain a reasonably safe work area.

All actions were consolidated solely for purposes of discovery. As a result of St. Ignatius' failure to comply in timely fashion with certain of these discovery orders an order of default and judgment for liability was entered against it on March 28, 1973, in favor of plaintiff Kerr. Kerr did not seek to establish damages, and subsequently, on December 4, 1974, the default and judgment for liability were vacated on motion of St. Ignatius. The Kerr suit proceeded to trial before a jury and Judge Canel. At the close of all the evidence the trial court entered an order directing the jurors to find against plaintiff Kerr on behalf of all defendants and entered judgment in accord with said order and verdict. From entry of the judgment plaintiff Kerr appeals.

Subsequent to judgment in the Kerr case, plaintiff Sansonetti filed a petition for change of venue alleging prejudice of the trial judge. It was dismissed as not timely filed. Defendants' motions for summary judgments against plaintiff on all counts were granted. Plaintiff Sansonetti appeals and urges that the court erred in entering said summary judgments.

Both parties filed timely notice of appeal, and the cases were consolidated for purposes of appeal.

A review of the evidence adduced at trial establishes that prior to September 27, 1969, plaintiffs' employer, Raymond Sansonetti, Sr., an independent contractor, had contracted to perform certain maintenance work on the building of St. Ignatius High School in Chicago, Illinois. The work to be performed on this date entailed the scraping and painting of exterior windows on the building's east wall. Sansonetti's employees assigned to this project were his son, Raymond Sansonetti, Jr., and Louis E. Kerr.

The men performed this work supported by a scaffold suspended from the roof of the east wall. The scaffold was 20 feet long and 2 feet wide and had been hung by the workmen.

The scaffolding was hung on the wall by the use of "rope nooses" or "sling loops" which were tied through portholes to joists at the top of the wall. A set of open hooks were attached to the top of each of the scaffold's pulleys and were secured by the nooses. A second set of hooks were attached to lower pulleys and iron stirrups supporting the stage of the scaffold. Ropes were run through the pulleys, and the scaffold assembly was raised and lowered by means of a pull rope or "fall line." The pull rope was "tied in" to the scaffold when the device was suspended above ground and the fall line was permitted to hang to the parking lot below. No barricades were placed about the scaffold area.

To prevent a rope noose from slipping out of the top set of hooks as the scaffold was manipulated the Sansonetti workmen wrapped "baling" or "safety" wire around the shank of the hook, across the hook aperture and through a hole in the end of the hook.

On the date of the accident Sansonetti and Kerr left the scaffold in the aforementioned condition and went for lunch at approximately 12 noon. The scaffold hung parallel with the building's fourth floor, tied to the wall, and the fall line tied to the scaffold in a "double" or "safety" hitch.

Approximately 10 minutes after they returned to work an Archer delivery truck arrived in the parking lot to deliver laundry. The truck was operated by Archer's employee, Edwin J. Bylica, in the company of his helper, Charles R. Cox. The truck was driven into the parking lot toward the vicinity of the scaffold apparatus. It backed in and was parked a distance of 8-10 feet from the wall so that the back of the truck was facing toward the south end of the scaffold. Sylica and Cox dismounted and entered the building.

At approximately 1 p.m. Sansonetti and Kerr returned to their work and mounted the scaffold from the interior of the building. Kerr took his position at the north side of the scaffold and Sansonetti assumed his to the south end. The scaffold weighed 150 pounds; Kerr weighed 135 pounds; and Sansonetti weighed 140 pounds. Paint and other equipment of unspecified weight were also on the scaffold. Sansonetti testified that from his vantage point he observed defendant's truck parked "directly below" at a distance of 8-10 feet from the wall upon which the scaffold was suspended. Sansonetti also observed that the scaffold fall lines were "right in back" of the truck. No other vehicles were observed in the area.

The workmen lowered the scaffold approximately 15 feet by means of the pull rope, which maneuver, according to Sansonetti, required 10-15 seconds. Sansonetti indicated that upon reaching the desired level he hitched and secured his end of the scaffold and observed that Kerr had completed securing his end of the scaffold when that end dropped. Neither man wore a lifebelt. As a result of the sudden tilting of the scaffold both men were thrown to the ground resulting in Kerr's death and Sansonetti's severe injury. Conscious after his fall, Sansonetti had occasion to observe that a portion ...

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