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06/20/89 Howard C. Overbeck, v. Jon Construction

June 20, 1989





540 N.E.2d 969, 184 Ill. App. 3d 918, 133 Ill. Dec. 103

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Dean M. Trafelet, Judge, presiding. 1989.IL.936


JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO and EGAN, JJ., concur.*


This appeal is from the circuit court's order granting defendants' motions for summary judgment as to count I of plaintiff's second amended complaint, alleging that defendants violated the Illinois Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 60) (Act). Count II of the second amended complaint is a negligence count. Summary judgment was granted as to count I for the reasons that the ladder involved in the accident was not defective, the placement of the ladder did not violate the Act, and no violation of the Act proximately caused plaintiff's injuries. The court denied summary judgment motions as to count II, which is pending, and found that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal of the order.

Plaintiff contends that the pleadings and depositions establish factual issues as to whether the placement of the ladder constituted a violation of the Act and as to whether that violation was a proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries, thereby making the Disposition of count I erroneous.

Plaintiff, electrician Howard C. Overbeck, employed by defendant Rossett Electric Co., was seriously injured on August 25, 1983, while working on the installation of electrical wiring in the Bake-Line Products plant being constructed by defendants in Des Plaines, Illinois. Defendants are the owner, architect and contractors of the project, a bakery plant.

On August 24, 1983, plaintiff and another electrician, Jim Patterson, were working under the supervision of the foreman of Rossett Electric Co., who instructed them to run conduit in the second floor of the bakery plant from the switch gear in an electrical panel in the wire room to machinery in the mixing room. The mixing room and wire room shared a common wall. The wire room was approximately 6 feet by 12 feet in dimension. A large table, which measured approximately 4 feet by 8 feet, was placed in the wire room partially blocking the door. Another workman used this table that day to do metering work unrelated to plaintiff's electrical wiring tasks.

Plaintiff and Patterson began their work by making openings approximately 1 1/2 inches wide and six to seven inches apart from each other in the wall between the wire room and the mixing room. These openings were approximately 12 to 14 feet above the floor. Standing on the sixth or seventh step of an "A-frame" ladder, they first cut openings in the wire room wall and then went into the mixing room and continued making openings on that side of the same wall.

The electrical panel had already been installed on the wire room wall and was situated below the holes which plaintiff and Patterson made in the wall. The panel was about 8 feet high, 30 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches deep. Plaintiff and Patterson were instructed to put the conduit and the wire into a disconnect switch in the panel. They tested the panel for voltage and determined it was dead. After punching holes in the panel to receive the conduit and the wire, they bent the conduit and ran it through the panel to the two machines in the mixing room. By the end of the work day on August 24, plaintiff and Patterson still needed to run more conduit into the machines' control panel and pull more wire through the conduit.

On August 25, 1983, plaintiff and Patterson continued their work. The large table remained in the same position in the wire room, but the technician who had been working there the previous day was not present. The A-frame ladder which they used the day before was used again on the 25th. There were no defects in the ladder. The ladder was placed almost against the panel on the wall. The ladder's legs were partially placed under the table because of the close dimensions of the wire room and the location of the table.

After plaintiff and Patterson finished running conduit, they began to run the wire through it. This was accomplished by the use of a "fish tape," a device used to push and pull wire through the conduit. Patterson again tested the panel for voltage, finding it dead. Patterson began pushing the wire through the conduit with the fish tape, sending it from the machinery in the mixing room through the conduit, through the wall, and into the wire room.

The typical procedure for the electrical wiring task is for the electrician who is pushing the fish tape through the conduit to listen for the other electrician to tell him when to stop pushing and to feel the other electrician grab the fish tape. This informs the electrician pushing the wire that it has been received on the other side and that he should stop pushing it through. Patterson was to wait until plaintiff was ready on the receiving end ...

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