This is a review of a construction accident lawsuit involving a woman who was injured outside of her apartment when a piece of loose masonry fell on her. The woman filed an injury lawsuit against both the general contractor hired by her apartment complex to do restoration work and the subcontractor hired to repair the building’s façade.
Attorneys for the general contractor responded to the construction accident lawsuit by filing a cross-claim which contended the subcontractor was solely liable for the damages, and the contractor should be dismissed from the suit.
Statement of Facts…
Prior to March 2011, The Arbold Restoration Company had been working as a general contractor on a project to restore an apartment complex. The apartment complex in question was built in 1996 using Chicago brick as the exterior façade. By 2011, many of the bricks surrounding the individual apartment units had begun to fade and deteriorate.
Since Arbold was responsible for both the exterior and interior of the building, they sought out a masonry subcontractor to make the necessary repairs. Eventually they selected the Kenner Masonry Corporation.
As part of standard industry practice, Arbold required all of its subcontractors to be bonded. Before being hired, each subcontractor had to produce proof they were bonded in the amount of one million dollars.
Arbold, like all major general contractors, required each of its subcontractors to indemnify them against construction accident lawsuits which might be brought against Arbold as a result of a subcontractor’s poor quality workmanship, personal injuries, or any other contingency in which a subcontractor had respective legal duties and responsibilities.
Well into the third week of the restoration, Kenner was just finishing the replacement of the brick façade about 15 feet above the front door of apartment number 308. At about the same time the tenant from 308, Mary Webb, opened her front door.
As she stepped out from her doorway suddenly two bricks from above let loose and crashed down on her. One brick landed on top of her head and the other on her left foot.
An ambulance was summoned, and Webb was transported to Medical City Hospital. After a CAT Scan and an MRI exam, it was determined Webb suffered a fracture to the anterior portion of her skull. She also suffered a fracture of the first three toes on her right foot.
Webb filed a construction accident lawsuit against Arbold and Kenner for damages she suffered as a result of her personal injuries.
Webb sued both Defendants individually and collectively for $104,418.39, an amount determined to fairly compensate her for her medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and for the pain and suffering she experienced and would experience into the future.
After being served with the construction accident lawsuit Arbold turned around and filed a “Cross-Claim” against Kenner.
A “Cross-Claim” is a lawsuit within a lawsuit. It is usually filed by one or more defendants in a lawsuit. The Cross-Claim normally asks the Court to dismiss the lawsuit against the person filing the Cross-Claim, asking the Court to release them from any liability.
The basis of Cross-Claims can be varied. One of the most often used reasons is the existence of an Indemnification Agreement executed between one defendant and another.
In the Cross-Claim, Arbold alleged Kenner should be liable for Webb’s injuries and the compensation she was requesting. As proof, Arbold submitted to the Court a copy of the Indemnification or “Hold Harmless” agreement he had previously secured from Webb. Arbold asked the Court to find the Indemnification Agreement valid. If the Court found the Indemnification Agreement valid, Arbold asked the Court to then dismiss him from the lawsuit.
When considering Cross-Claims the Court can take several actions. Sometimes the Court will hear the entire lawsuit, including all the testimony and evidence, before it decides whether to grant the Defendant’s Cross-Claim or not.
In the alternative, the Court can conduct a separate hearing before the trial begins. The hearing is usually much shorter. The Court only hears the evidence which proves the defendant filing the Cross-Claim shouldn’t be held liable for any of the plaintiff’s injuries or other damages.
The Defendant also asks the Court, after hearing the evidence, to dismiss the case against him and to relieve him of all liability in the case with prejudice.
“With Prejudice” means that in the eyes of the court, the matter has become completely closed and the plaintiff cannot file any further lawsuits against the defendant concerning the same incident.
In this case the Court granted Arbold’s Cross-Claim and dismissed the plaintiff’s case against him with prejudice.
After a full trial in the case the Court found for Webb and against Kenner. The Court awarded Webb the amount of $104,418.39, plus costs of Court and her attorney’s fees.
Indemnification Agreements, also called Hold Harmless Agreements, are powerful tools in protecting a person or company from the negligent acts of another person or company. It’s always important to consider an Indemnification Agreement when working with another person or company.
Indemnification Agreements aren’t intended only for the construction accident lawsuits of large companies. They can be a useful tool to protect oneself when working on a project with another party, no matter how large or small a project. Indemnification Agreements can be found in the Forms Section at office supply stores, or online.
Cross-Claims are effective tools in lawsuits. There are many reasons for Cross-Claims. They are often used when there is an Indemnifications or Hold Harmless Agreement between two parties.
When agreeing to work with another person or company, an indemnification agreement by itself cannot be used against a plaintiff. The person with the Indemnification, when sued, may take the agreement to the plaintiff, but there isn’t a guarantee the plaintiff will honor it.
Many times, being released from liability for the acts of another will only come after both a lawsuit and a Cross-Claim are filed.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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