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You’re not cold as ice, but the sidewalks might be

| Jan 11, 2016 | Premises Liability

So far, winter in O’Fallon has been a bit erratic. The temperatures have fluctuated dramatically over the course of a week, going from a 10-degree high on Sunday to a 50-degree high just two days later. While the warmer weather is not necessarily a bad thing, it does make it harder to dress in the morning.

It also makes it harder to keep ice off streets and sidewalks. Snow that melts during the day freezes overnight. A storm that starts as rain turns into sleet; the temperature drops enough that the sleet falls into puddles that, again, freeze overnight, then thaw, then freeze. And, of course, there is the black ice that forms on roadways as cars idle at traffic lights and the moisture from the exhaust freezes when it hits the ground.

These are the perfect conditions for someone to slip and fall on a sidewalk or a driveway. Or, as one Cook County man discovered in late 2007, at a construction site partially exposed to the elements. His story raises some interesting legal issues while also serving as a reminder that what looks like a simple slip on the ice can result in a permanent, life-altering injury.

The victim worked for a subcontractor at a Chicago construction site. While the partially completed floors of the high-rise were draped to protect the floors and other surfaces from the elements, these areas cannot be completely closed off to moisture and cold. In those conditions, ice can form, and on that December day, it did.

With two other men, the victim was moving large, heavy carts loaded with plywood from one area of the floor to another. As he did so, he slid on a patch of ice and twisted his back.

Over the next two years, the victim’s injury became more complicated. Although he had two surgeries to correct issues with certain vertebrae, he developed a relatively rare condition of the spinal nerves. He now suffers from constant nerve pain, even with medication. His slip on the ice resulted in a permanent disability that prevents him from working in construction or any other field.

He filed a lawsuit against the general contractor, accusing the company of negligence and premises liability.

That raises the first question about the case: The victim was a worker injured in a work-related accident. Why would this not be a workers’ compensation claim?

We’ll explain in our next post.

Source: Chicago Law Bulletin, “Slip on ice nets $3.5M settlement,” Lauraann Woodlaw, Dec. 30, 2015

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