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06/24/87 Norman Harper, v. Schal Associates

June 24, 1987

NORMAN HARPER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

SCHAL ASSOCIATES, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE (SKIDMORE OWINGS & MERRILL ET AL., DEFENDANTS)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION

510 N.E.2d 1061, 159 Ill. App. 3d 542, 110 Ill. Dec. 30 1987.IL.878

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William R. Quinlan, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA, P.J., and WHITE, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RIZZI

Plaintiff, Norman Harper, appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendant, Schal Associates, Inc., in an action brought pursuant to the Structural Work Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 60 et seq.). We affirm.

On June 12, 1979, plaintiff was employed as an architectural ironworker by Architectural Structures, Inc., to perform work at a construction site in Chicago, Illinois. On the construction site was a partially erected building. The unfinished space to the west of the building consisted of dry, packed earth composed of backfill and gravel. This area covered approximately 25 feet in a westerly direction and 50 feet in a north-south direction. The west edge of the site was bordered by a fence adjacent to the street. Approximately one to two feet west of the building's foundation, a bulkhead had been placed in the ground. *fn1

On the day in question, plaintiff was using a welding cable on the mezzanine level of the structure. The cable was roughly 150 feet long and weighed 250 pounds. After completing his work, it was necessary for plaintiff to straighten out the cable prior to recoiling it and placing it back in his truck. To accomplish this task, plaintiff disengaged the cable from the mezzanine level and let it drop to the main floor of the building. Plaintiff then took one end of the cable and began dragging it out from the building toward the west perimeter of the construction site. As plaintiff walked backward dragging the cable, he stepped over the bulkhead and continued walking backward toward the fence. Plaintiff then tripped in a depression in the ground on the western side of the bulkhead and fell, sustaining injuries. The depression in which plaintiff tripped measured approximately 16 inches wide by 24 inches long.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a two-count complaint in the circuit court. In count I, plaintiff alleged a violation of the Act. Count II of plaintiff's complaint sounded in negligence. Defendant moved for partial summary judgment with respect to count I. Both parties filed memoranda pertaining to defendant's motion. Following oral argument, the trial court entered summary judgment in defendant's favor on the ground that the Act was inapplicable. Defendant appeals.

The sole issue presently before us is whether the failure to provide planking over the depressions which existed in the western area of the construction site where plaintiff tripped is actionable under the Act.

Section one of the Act 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, 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. 1985, ch. 48, par. 60.

In reviewing a trial court's entry of summary judgment in a Structural Work Act case, we must determine whether the circuit court was correct in deciding that no genuine issue of material fact was raised and that the entry of summary judgment was correct as a matter of law. "It is well settled that summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Vuletich v. United States Steel Corp. (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 417, 421.

The purpose of the Act is to protect workers engaged in the extrahazardous occupations involved in working in and around construction, repairing, alteration or removal of buildings, bridges, viaducts and other structures. (Vuletich v. United States Steel Corp. (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 417, 422.) While the Act should be liberally construed, it was never intended to be applied to all construction-related activities or to all injuries which occur at or in proximity to a construction site. (Vuletich v. United States Steel Corp. (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 417, 422.) Rather, inquiry should focus with particularity on the ...


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