$1,500,000 :: Lopez v. Monarch Builders

SETTLEMENT : Fall from height

On December 19, 2000, Efrain Lopez and Javier Lopez, both in their early 20s, were working as construction employees for Michael Winters Construction, an Orange County-based subcontractor, on a business park construction project in Orange County. The two men were charged with doing the interior framing on each of the business park’s five buildings. The general contractor on the project was Monarch Buildings Inc.

On the day in question, the two men had completed the framing work on three of the buildings and had moved onto the fourth. They were working atop joists secured to a beam on one end and set atop the hanger of a metal ledger on the other end that was embedded in a tilt-up concrete wall. Neither had fall protection on as they worked hanging joists at a height of about 14 feet above the building’s concrete floor. None of these joists had yet to be secured to the hanger with nails, welding equipment, or similar fasteners.

A Falling Accident

At some point during their work, one of the joists the men stood upon slipped from the hanger. The two men fell with the joist, Efrain landed first with Javier falling atop him. Javier suffered minor head injuries but the double impact rendered Efrain a paraplegic. The two men hired Richard B. Koskoff of The Law Offices of Booth and Koskoff to represent them in a lawsuit against the general contractor Monarch Buildings Inc. and DSA Anaheim Business Park, LLC, owners of the construction site, alleging worksite negligence. Monarch filed a cross-complaint against the men’s employer, Michael Winters Construction.

The plaintiffs argued that the ledgers had been secured with irregularities in the concrete wall before it was tilted up. These irregularities resulted in some ledgers being embedded too deeply into the wall causing reduced surface space on the hanger upon which to hang the joists. They had seen this problem occur on the wall of the first building and brought it to the contractor’s attention. The contractor supposedly remedied it then but the plaintiffs argued that this same problem likely occurred on the fourth building. They contended that because the ledgers were again too deeply embedded in the concrete, the joists bowed under their weight and this caused it to slip off the ledger hanger.

Initially, the defendants denied that the ledgers were the issue and instead contended that the slippage was the fault of the plaintiffs for cutting the joists too short. Furthermore, they argued that the joists in question were never designed to hold the weight of two people and that caused the slippage.

An Early Settlement

In the end, Monarch Builders settled the case early in the litigation process with the claim against the DSA Anaheim Business Park and cross-complaint being dismissed. The Booth & Koskoff team secured a total of $1.5 million on behalf of their clients, of which Efrain Lopez, the more seriously injured of the two, received $1.4 million and Javier Lopez received $100,000.

Article [PDF]