On January 6, 2020, GRSLBG&B’s Chris Zevlikaris obtained Summary Judgment in a construction site personal injury matter in which Plaintiff sustained catastrophic injuries. On April 9, 2012, Plaintiff, employed as a “burner” tasked with the demolition of certain steel structures at an active mining facility, fell approximately 60 feet to the ground after a concrete silo collapsed. Our client had leased a man-lift to the mining facility to facilitate the demolition work. As a result of the fall, Plaintiff sustained devastating spinal cord injuries, which rendered him a tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Plaintiff subsequently died during the litigation allegedly due, in part, to the impact of his injuries.
Plaintiff alleged that GRSLBG&B’s client owed him a duty to train and certify users of the manlift, such as himself, in the safe use and operation of the equipment or alternatively, require proof that the users were properly trained and certified prior to using the equipment. Plaintiff alleged our client’s negligence was a direct and proximate cause of his accident.
Through discovery, it became evident that the accident did not occur on or about the manlift and that Plaintiff’s employer was not a party to the leasing agreement. Chris established that our client was a mere lessor of equipment, and therefore did not owe Plaintiff, a nonparty to the leasing agreement, any duty of care. As part of the Motion, we argued that in order to establish a duty of care the Court is required to perform an assessment of the defendant’s responsibility for conditions creating the risk of harm, as well as an analysis of whether the defendant has sufficient control, opportunity, and ability to avoid the risk. Carvalho v. Toll Bros. & Developers, 143 N.J. 565, 574-576 (1996). Foreseeability of the risk is a central aspect in determining the existence of a duty. Olivo v. Owens-Illinois, 186 N.J. 394, 402 (2006). Ultimately, the determination of a duty is a question of fairness and public policy. Podias v. Mairs, 394 N.J. Super. 338, 350 (App. Div. 2007).
Based on the record and prevailing law, we argued that Plaintiff failed to establish our client owed him any duty of care. The Trial Court agreed that our client, a third party leasing company, did not owe Plaintiff any duty of care to train him on the use of the equipment, but rather that duty to train workers such as Plaintiff remained with the mining operator. Moreover, the Court found that even if any such duty was owed, Plaintiff did not establish the existence of any breach, as the record established that Plaintiff properly, and safely operated the manlift to access the silos, eliminating the conclusion that our client breached any duty to Plaintiff. Overall, the Court held that no reasonable jury could find that Plaintiff met his burden of proving a prima facie case of negligence against our client, and therefore granted summary judgment in its favor, dismissing all claims asserted, with prejudice.
Even prior to the dismissal, we secured a separate, but equally favorable, result for our Client when we successfully obtained risk transfer from a Co-Defendant’s insurance carrier for full defense and indemnification in connection with ongoing litigation, in addition to receiving a full reimbursement all of past defense costs and fees, including our client’s full deductible paid.
Congratulations to Chris on a job well done for our client!