CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit revived the negligence claims of a carpenter working on the Chicago Trump Tower project in 2008 who was struck by falling debris allegedly caused by high winds.
Christopher Sojka was repairing a steel cable that held safety netting around the upper floors of the project when wind knocked him backwards and a piece of metal struck his eye. The safety glasses Sojka was wearing did not fit his face properly and left a small gap above his eye where debris penetrated.
Sojka sued the construction manager, Bovis Lend Lease, seeking $100,000 in damages.
According to Sojka’s complaint, the company breached its duty to provide a safe workplace by failing to stop work because of unsafe wind conditions, not assigning a more experienced carpenter to assist him, and failing to properly manage the site.
In its response memo, Bovis argued that it had not duty to Sojka under Illinois law and, even if it had such a duty, committed no breach because it had no knowledge that his safety glasses were inadequate.
When Sojka responded only generally to Bovis’ claims, U.S. District Judge Suzanne Conlon determined that no material disputes of fact existed and ruled in Bovis’ favor.
Sojka appealed and the 7th Circuit revived his case.
“In our view, even though the court was correct that Sojka conceded the eyewear point by failing to respond to it, this took too narrow a view of Sojka’s case,” Judge Diane Wood wrote.
Sojka’s other legal theories – namely, that that Bovis should have stopped work because of high winds and assigned another carpenter to work with him – pleaded sufficient facts to survive summary judgment, the court ruled.
Wood reiterated that district judges must usually assess all claims before granting summary judgment.
The three-judge panel also affirmed that Sojka can pursue claims against Bovis even though he was employed by an independent contractor, McHugh Construction. Illinois workers compensation laws prevent Sojka from recovering from his direct employer.