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Kenworthy v. Young





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cumberland County; the Hon. JAMES R. WATSON, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff appeals the dismissal with prejudice on June 23, 1978, of count I of his complaint seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly caused by the defendant in violation of the Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 60 et seq.).

Count I of plaintiff's complaint alleged that on September 27, 1977, defendant owned farm land in Cumberland County, Illinois. On that date the plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a general farmhand for general labor work and was assisting the defendant in harvesting soybeans from nearby fields. Plaintiff was hauling beans in farm wagons from the combine being operated by defendant to two storage bins located in a nearby barn.

Defendant provided the plaintiff with a grain auger which was located in the area of the storage bins for use in unloading the grain from the farm wagons and transferring it to the storage bins. After plaintiff, at the direction of the defendant, had loaded and filled one of the two storage bins, plaintiff decided to move the grain auger from the full south storage bin to the empty north storage bin. Because there was no hitch on the auger which could be used for pulling it to a new area, defendant instructed plaintiff to use a chain attached to the drawbar of the tractor the plaintiff was operating, to pull and push the auger to an appropriate position. Before plaintiff was able to begin that operation, however, the auger tipped over so that the end normally touching the ground was high in the air, and the end normally from which the beans would be expelled was resting on the ground.

The auger was supported by means of braces and legs. At the top of the leg extending towards the feeder or front end of the auger was a hand crank which would change and reduce the angle of the leg on the opposite end of the auger relative to the base of the auger so as to lower the auger towards the ground. Plaintiff ascended the leg in order to get access to the hand crank and then turned the hand crank to lower the auger. The auger collapsed suddenly and sharply approximately 4 to 6 inches, whereupon the plaintiff immediately terminated movement of the hand crank. Before the plaintiff was able to undertake any further activity, the entire structure collapsed, throwing him to the ground.

As a result of the fall, plaintiff alleged that he sustained very serious permanent injuries to his left arm, hand, and wrist, and that he also lost wages. Plaintiff further alleged that defendant owned the premises in question and the auger from which plaintiff fell. Plaintiff also alleged that he was working under the supervision and control of the defendant.

The issue raised on appeal is whether count I of plaintiff's complaint stated a cause of action under the Structural Work Act.

• 1 At the outset, we note that a motion to strike or dismiss a complaint admits facts well pleaded for the purpose only of determining whether, as a matter of law, those facts pleaded state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The standard on appeal is similarly whether the complaint alleged facts which sufficiently state a cause of action. Carlinville National Bank v. Rhoads (1978), 63 Ill. App.3d 502, 503, 380 N.E.2d 63, 64-65.

Section 1 of the Structural Work Act provides in part:

"[A]ll 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, in a safe, suitable and proper manner, and shall be so 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, or passing under or by the same, and in such manner as to prevent the falling of any material that may be used or deposited thereon." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 60.)

Section 9 of the Act provides in part:

"Any owner, contractor, sub-contractor, foreman or other person having charge of the erection, construction, repairing, alteration, removal or painting of any building, bridge, viaduct or other structure within the provisions of this act, shall comply with all the terms thereof, * * *.

For any injury to person or property, occasioned by any wilful violations of this act, or wilful failure to comply with any of its provisions, a right of action shall accrue to the party injured, for any direct damages sustained thereby; * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 69.

• 2 The object of the Structural Work Act is to protect work activities of a particularly hazardous nature and is designed to lessen the extent of the danger. (Halberstadt v. Harris Trust & Savings Bank (1973), 55 Ill.2d 121, 127, 302 N.E.2d 64.) Generally, the Act is to be liberally construed to carry out this purpose. ...

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