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Rich v. Quad/Graphics Printing Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 10, 2014

TIM RICH, Plaintiff,
v.
QUAD/GRAPHICS PRINTING CORP., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tim A. Rich (hereinafter, "Rich" or "Plaintiff") brings this action against World Color Mt. Morris II, LLC and Quad/Graphics Inc. (collectively, the "Defendants"), alleging claims of premises liability, general negligence, and construction negligence for failure to provide him with a safe workplace. Defendants now move for summary judgment [ECF No. 72]. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are largely undisputed unless noted below. This case arises out of a personal injury accident. At the time of the accident, Rich was a journeyman insulator working for Sprinkmann Sons Corporation ("Sprinkmann"). In November 2010, Sprinkmann contracted with Defendants for Sprinkmann to install ductwork at Defendants' facility in Mt. Morris, Illinois. Pursuant to that contract, Defendants provided Rich with a Lift-A-Loft man-lift for use at their facility. The lift had a toe-kick board, or lip, which was approximately two to three inches in height and extended around the perimeter of the platform base, including across the doorway. The lip was placed on the lift by the manufacturer, and its purpose is to keep items on the lift's platform from rolling off and falling on people below. Defendants had never modified or removed the lip in the twenty years it had been in use. In addition to the lip, the lift had a twelve or thirteen inch doorway and a two-step ladder for entering and exiting the lift. Defendants did not instruct Rich or other Sprinkmann employees on how to enter and exit the lift.

Rich performed most of the installation work using the Lift-A-Loft lift on November 26, 27, and 29, 2010. During the course of each 8-hour workday, Rich entered and exited the lift at least eight times without tripping on the lip. Rich never complained directly to his supervisor at Sprinkmann about the lip being a trip hazard, but he did complain generally that the lift was dangerous.

On November 30, 2010, after completing the installation, Rich lowered and attempted to exit the lift. According to Rich, exiting the lift required him to turn sideways through the lift door and maneuver his tool belt so as to prevent it from snagging on the doorway. In the process of doing so, Rich tripped on the lip and fell to the ground below.

The parties dispute whether anyone had ever tripped on or complained about the lip prior to Rich's fall. On the one hand, Defendants' acting Safety Director, Bruce Dorn ("Dorn"), testified at his deposition that he had never received any safety complaints about the lift. Also, Defendants' maintenance manager, Jeff Warren ("Warren"), testified that he had never heard of anyone tripping while trying to exit the lift and that he was not aware of any complaints Rich may have made to anyone about the lift prior to his accident. Defendants' maintenance supervisor, Larry White ("White"), testified that he had never received any complaints from any Sprinkmann employees about any of Defendants' lifts.

Safety Director Dorn further testified that the lift had passed inspection on November 10, 2010 - twenty days before Rich's accident. According to Dorn, the inspection revealed that "[t]here [were] a couple of small cosmetic issues, but... nothing of a safety nature, " and that the lift checked out "operations-wise." White, meanwhile, testified that Defendants did not "perform any specific safety inspection of the lift in relationship to the usage that Sprinkman[n] employees would be using it for."

On the other hand, Defendants' truck mechanic and maintenance welder, Thad Rosquist ("Rosquist"), testified as follows:

Q: When you used the Lift-A-Loft lift, did you notice any problems or concerns using it or getting in and out of it?
A: Yeah. You had about a 12-inch doorway, and you had to step over a piece of tubing to get in and out. You had to hang off a two-step ladder to get in the thing and pull yourself through that little doorway. If you had a harness on or whatever and snagging, it was a nightmare lift. Trying to get out, you had to back out. You know, you'd back out and try to feel the ladder and holding yourself on there, and you'd get your foot on the ladder and climb off. It wasn't funny; it was a heap. It was hard to get in and out of, I'll tell you that.
Q: These concerns you had, were they at times safety concerns, getting in and out?
A: Nah. Just the way it was; use [sic] it.
Q: When you said you had concerns about getting in and out of it and there was something you had to step over at the entranceway, did you recognize that could be a potential hazard for people getting in and out?
A: It was a trip hazard.

Later in the deposition, Rosquist stated:

A: Widow Maker, that's what [the lift] was called.
Q: It was called [that] when?
A: All the time by the maintenance guys.
Q: Why was it called ...

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