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Workplace Injury

If a worker is injured due to negligence of the worker’s employer or a co-employee, the law generally bars any legal claim against the employer or co-employee and limits the worker to remedies available under the workers compensation system.  (However, there is an important exception to the general prohibition against suing your employer for injuries on the job.  Police and firefighters are allowed to sue their employer if their employer’s negligence causes injury or death on the job.) NOTE: We do not handle worker’s compensation claims, which differ from injury claims arising from a third party while on the job. Everyone deserves a safe place to work. If you were injured on the job, your employer may be responsible if they failed to do what was required of them to create a safe workplace. Our attorneys represent clients when a third party (not the employer) is responsible for the resulting injuries. Stritmatter Kessler Whelan personal injury attorneys are recognized in Seattle, Washington State and throughout the country for their successes in litigating and settling many worksite injury cases.

Workplace Injury Facts

Work related injuries that occur on the job can fall into several different categories.  If a worker is injured as a result of a defective machine or piece of equipment, there may be a product liability claim against the manufacturer or seller of the machine or equipment. If a worker is injured in a motor vehicle accident or collision, there may be a right to sue others who caused the collision. If a subcontractor or independent contractor worker is electrocuted and/or seriously injured due to a faulty machine/system, there may be a claim against both the employer and the manufacturer of the flawed machine. If a worker is injured on a construction site, Washington law imposes a duty on general contractors to ensure that safety regulations are complied with on the jobsite.  General contractors have a specific, non-delegable duty to comply with WISHA regulations (safety regulations) for the benefit of every person working on the jobsite, including workers employed by independent contractors.   The Washington Supreme Court explained in Stute v. P.B.M.C., Inc., 114 Wn.2d 454, 463 (1990), that the general contractor’s supervisory authority places the general contractor in the best position to ensure compliance with safety regulations: General contractors can also have duties to ensure that proper safety practices are followed under their contracts with the owner/developer.  If a worker is employed by a subcontractor and is injured on a jobsite as a result of safety rules being violated, there may be a legal claim against the general contractor responsible for the jobsite. Similar rules apply to other non-construction related injuries that arise due to an environment under the control of the property owner.  The rules vary depending on the sophistication of the property owner and the degree of control they exercise over the jobsite.  In some cases, a legal claim can be made against the owner of a jobsite when a worker employed by an independent contractor is injured on that jobsite.

Representative Cases

Kirkland v. Emhart Glass, S.A.

Michael Kirkland, a resident of Vancouver, Washington, worked at a glass bottle manufacturer, Cameron Glass in Kalama. He was experienced in the glass industry, having worked for about 30 years at two other glass container manufacturing plants.

On November 26, 2008, Mike slipped and accidentally fell onto the conveyor. He landed on a red hot bottle, which caught his clothes on fire and lodged into his rectum. Despite his decades of experience, safety gear and precautions, he sustained profound, permanent injuries. The manufacturer should have provided a reasonably safe platform for workers to stand. Moreover, the manufacturer should have provided a guard or shield over the conveyor to protect workers from suffering burns when standing near/over the conveyor.

Emhart Glass violated its duty under RCW 7.723.939 to design a reasonably safe machine and to provide adequate instructions.

He worked at Ball Foster/Kerr Glass in Illinois for almost 20 years. He then worked at Rocky Mountain Bottle in Colorado, after the Kerr Glass plant closed.

In addition to a $2,400,000 recovery, the manufacturer was required to make the required changes to its equipment to provide a reasonably safe machine to operate.

 

 

Otto v. The Boeing Company, Transdigm Group, Inc. and AmSafe, Inc.
Ken Otto was survived by his 16 year old son, Bostin Otto, after Ken sustained catastrophic injuries when working on a Boeing airplane.
Lee v. Willis Enterprises, 194 Wn.App. 394 (2016)

The Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment ruling finding the defendant negligent for sticking a screwdriver into an energized high voltage electrical device. Rejecting the defense argument that the foreseeability of an arc blast and injury to a bystander were questions of fact for the jury, the court held that “it is foreseeable as a matter of law that serious injury could result from careless behavior while working in and around energized high-voltage electrical equipment.”

The Court also rejected the defendant’s claim that he reasonably relied upon the plaintiff’s alleged silence as an implied assurance that it was safe to stick the screwdriver into the energized drive.  The Court found that there was no authority holding that silence and inaction can give rise to an implied assurance of safety, and that an implied assurance of safety would not absolve a defendant’s own negligence.

Cooper v. Ralph’s Concrete Pumping & Miles Sand & Gravel
Wrongful death of 30 year old worker, where compressed air hose tore loose and whipped Allan Cooper in the head. Tragedy left widow Teresa Cooper traumatized and in a deep depression.
Lee v. Willis Enterprises
A $3,876.139 verdict for an electronics technician injured when defendant’s employee stuck a screwdriver into a variable frequency drive causing an electrical explosion. Lee suffered permanent damage to his hearing system including severe tinnitus.
Does v. XYZ Corporation

(February 2004).  $3,100,000 settlement for exposure to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide, causing two employees of an independent contractor to develop Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome.

Peller v. BooCo Construction

(October 2014) $1 million settlement for injuries received when Plaintiff fell into an uncovered hole on a construction site.

Fulton v. XYZ Corp.

(August 2006) $2,200,000 settlement for a roofer who fell from a construction site roof 35 feet rendering him a paraplegic.  Suit was against general contractor and second tier contractor for failure to maintain a safe workplace.  Substantial comparative negligence issues.

Halasz v. CECO, et al.

(May 2003) $1,750,000 settlement for a carpenter struck by a counterweight on a crane while sitting in a SaniCan, resulting in a closed head injury with resulting seizures.

Glubrecht v. Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc.

(April 2003) $1,200,000 settlement for a tow truck operator injured by a forklift with a faulty emergency brake resulting in thoracic outlet syndrome, partial removal of a lung and a neck fusion.

Tkachev v. Ledcor Industries (USA), Inc.

(April 2003) $2,400,000 settlement for an immigrant laborer who had his right leg amputated below the knee when the general contractor failed to provide guardrails for the 7’6” scaffolding on which he was working.

Kanning and Evans v. Thompson

(1997) $1,850,000 settlement for deaths of two workers who went down a manhole and were asphyxiated.

Petersen v. Finazzo
(2008) Mr. Petersen, an active young man was seriously hurt on the job but found justice through SKW attorneys.Ultimately, the jury rendered verdict for $1,033,000.00. After the verdict was read, the jury members embraced Ken Petersen.
Perez v. THG Construction
SKW fought for Mr. Perez, against a construction company for allowing workers to work under treacherous conditions.