Massachusetts Appellate Case Shows Complexities of Construction Accident Personal Injury Suits

If you or a family member has suffered an injury while working in construction, there may be multiple legal routes to obtaining monetary relief. Typically, an injury is covered by workers’ compensation insurance held by the employer, but the injured person may also hold other parties accountable through personal injury actions. A recent unpublished Massachusetts case, Leahy v. Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, Inc. (14-P-1215), looks at suits filed by an injured subcontractor employee as well as the suits filed by his employer, all stemming from his injury. The injured worker was on a break and sitting on a pallet when a previously installed limestone panel fell on him, crushing his legs and arm. These injuries caused serious and permanent damage.

The injured worker filed a personal injury suit against the general contractor, the masonry company that was installing the limestone, the insurance company insuring the masonry, and other subcontractors on the job. The general contractor filed a third-party complaint against the injured worker’s employer and the insurance company used by the property owners to cover the general contractor and its workers. The general contractor also filed against the subcontractor and its policy, also alleging they were owed indemnification. The general contractor felt the insurance company was obligated to indemnify them in the subcontracting injured worker’s suit, since the work was part of the project covered by the umbrella insurance policy.

The masonry company settled with the injured worker, paying the full value of the case, and included the amount attributed to the subcontractor, but no other party. The subcontractor and insurance company then moved for summary judgment to dismiss the general contractor’s third-party complaint based on the settlement. The trial court judge held that the subcontractor was not liable because none of their actions contributed toward the injury and they were therefore not covered by the general contractor’s umbrella insurance policy. The injured worker argued that the general contractor was responsible for ensuring safety for all the subcontractors, including maintaining adequate danger signs and providing barricades, temporary fences, and covered walkways that are typically seen on construction sites, yet no barricades were erected and no signs were placed around the area near the limestone panel installation. The subcontractor and the injured worker argued that this resulted in the general contractor’s liability.

The insurance company and the subcontractor returned to the point that the subcontractor was not responsible for the injuries, so there was no duty to indemnify the general contractor for its liabilities. The appellate court agreed and affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment in favor of the insurance company and subcontractor. This appeal did not address the personal injury suits by the injured worker against the other parties, nor the merits of whether or not the general contractor was also liable for the injuries of the worker.

When construction workers suffer serious and permanent injuries from their work, the Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan understand the immense financial burden placed on the worker and his or her family. Our attorneys have the experience you need to maximize your damages and will aggressively pursue all routes to monetary relief. For a free, confidential consultation, call 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Court Keeps Premises Liability Case Law Favorable for Injured Individuals, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 26, 2015
The Path to Damages after a Massachusetts Car Accident Can be a Complex, Winding One, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 22, 2015