Paralyzed Injury Victim in Texas Recovers $4,950,000.00 from fall

As a Houston Texas injury attorney, I read that a worker recovered $4,950,000.00 after he plummeted 40 feet. This roofer was injured when he fell through the asbestos roof he was replacing. He struck a large piece of steel on the way down which permanently injured his spinal cord. Neither his employer, nor the prime contractor enforced safety rules which required fall protection devices, nor warned him that the roof was in a weakened condition .

The prime contractor had retained control over the work site, and therefore the worker’s lawyers argued that the contractor had the duty to make sure the worker was well protected and informed of the weakened roof. In Philadelphia, where the case was handled, a meaningful settlement was obtained for the paralyzed man. However, the laws in Pennsylvania are more favorable toward the injured worker so that he had a chance to be compensated. 

I tried a similar injury case in Houston, Texas against a contractor on behalf of an injured worker who fell off of prime contractor’s work and unguarded platform high above the ground. Similar to this case, my client was unable to tie off, and the prime contract knew that there was no tie off protection. In Texas, liability can be imposed upon the prime contractor only if it has actual knowledge of the danger and has the right to control the manner and details of the work. Despite a jury’s finding that the prime contractor had the right to forbid the injured worker from working without fall protection and the right to dictate what fall protection to use, the jury found that the prime contractor did not follow its own safety rules in forbidding the behavior. The jury further found that the prime contractor knew that the work was being performed in an unsafe manner, just like the other contract worker had being doing for quite some time. The prime contractor admitted that it had the right to control the manner and details of the work. However, the Houston Court of Appeals overturned the jury’s finding because it found that there was not enough evidence that the contractor controlled the job. Ellwood Texas Forge Corporation vs. Jones, 214 S.W. 3d 693 (Tex. App. – Houston 2009). The court ignored evidence that the prime contractor had furnished the work specifications, the equipment, work site, and a general foreman who instructed the workers during the job, thereby substituting its opinion over those of 12 unbiased jurors. 

The ruling is shameful and follows a trend of opinions from the Texas business minded appellate courts. These court’s rulings consistently favor big business over the safety of workers. This worker and thousands of others are denied recovery in Texas because the Texas appellate courts simply do not enforce the law. These senseless rulings encourage corporations to put employees and subcontractors at risk by allowing them to overlook the safety of the worker in furtherance of the corporate goal of making profit. Corporations often rush the jobs and choose to save money on necessary safety items such as fall protection. Therefore, the Texas working man who is permanently paralyzed has little hope of being able to be compensated for his injuries that are caused by the negligence of those in charge of the worksite. 

It is time that Texas Courts take a different view so that Texans can be safely restored to the work place and that those who are injured by negligent contractors can be compensated for their injuries.