If an individual is injured while working on a construction site, any parties that caused the injury due to their negligence should be held liable. However, it is not always immediately clear who should be held liable. Depending on the circumstances, the general contractor in charge of the entire project or any other subcontractor may be held responsible.

In the recent Illinois Appellate Court case of Ramirez v. FCL Builders, Inc., the court discussed a general contractor's liability for a construction injury.

Pushing heavy rolls around a roof . . . by hand

The victim worked for a roofing company on a construction site. The roofing company was a subcontractor to the general contractor overseeing a warehouse project in Romeoville, Illinois.

On the day of his injury, the victim was part of a group of men manually pushing a bulky and heavy roll of roofing membrane material across the roof of the warehouse. Often, all-terrain vehicles would be used to move the bulky rolls, and at least one witness testified that it was highly unusual not to use ATVs on a roof the size of this project. The victim said that he was told not to use the ATVs and while the victim was pushing the heavy rolls, he felt a crack in his back. The victim described the sensation as very, very painful.

The victim eventually required physical therapy, injections, and two surgeries. The victim could no longer participate in activities he enjoyed such as boxing and soccer, and he had been unable to obtain work.

The jury found the general contractor liable and awarded the victim $1.588 million. The general contractor appealed, arguing that it had no liability for the victim's injuries.

Did the general contractor retain control?

The Illinois Appellate Court noted that the victim's lawsuit was based on a theory of negligence-that is, that the general contractor owed a duty to the victim which was breached and resulted in his injury. Even though the company employing the victim was an independent subcontractor, the general contractor had retained control over the manner in which some of the work was done on the site.

The victim presented evidence at the trial that the general contract had the right to control the safety of the work on the project, had participated in finding a solution to moving the heavy rolls, and had ordered that ATVs not be used, resulting in the victim manually pushing the rolls.

This conduct was sufficient to show that the general contractor retained a level of control over the subcontractor's work, giving rise to liability. Thus, the verdict in this personal injury action in favor of the victim was affirmed.

Liability for your injuries

If you are injured on a construction site due to the negligence of others, you should immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Seek an attorney who will investigate the incident and, if necessary, involve safety experts, engineers and other professionals to ensure that all responsible parties are held accountable for your injuries.