The Workers Compensation Board of British Columbia is suing boom truck manufacturer Elliott Equipment of Omaha, Nebraska for negligence following a fatal accident in 2010 in which the crane broke clear of the truck.
Christian Nygaard-Petersen was operating the crane when the bolts attaching it to the chassis of a truck failed, he was badly injured, while co-worker, Robert Skidmore died from his injuries.
The WCB claims that the accident was caused solely by the negligence of the crane manufacturer. Under the Workers Compensation Act, injured workers give up the right to sue in exchange for employers funding a no-fault insurance system. Nygaard-Petersen suffered a number of injuries, including a hip sprain/ strain, injuries to his right elbow and right foot, loss of consciousness and concussion.
The WCB is seeking general and special damages for Nygaard-Petersen’s injuries and damages in trust for family members who provide care for him along with family compensation damages for the death of Skidmore.
Any money recovered from the suit will be paid back to the system and anything above the costs should go back to the injured worker or surviving spouse.
This is an interesting case in that Elliot manufactures the crane which did not fail in this incident. What appears to have caused the failure is the connection to the chassis which Elliot may or may not have been responsible for.
One assumes that in this case it did indeed mount the crane itself. If so as long as this was carried out correctly the responsibility is at the very least equally shared with the owner who is responsible for servicing and inspecting the crane.
So much will depend on the age of the crane – the older it is the more the responsibility falls on the owner. Inspection routines will be critical in this case as will the cause of the bolt failure. Were they substandard bolts? Were they torqued correctly or checked regularly?
If sub-standard is easily proved, it then begs the question how did they get there? Was it a bad batch of bolts? Were they the wrong bolts with a mistake made on the production line? Or had the crane owner replaced them at some time with non-original equipment?
All of these facts could be ascertained in advance of a trial and should clearly point to the cause. One wonders if this is the case here or not.
It’s a shame that given what should be a relatively modest claim this could not all be determined outside of a court as the lawyers will inevitably be the biggest winners no matter what the verdict.
This will be an interesting one to follow and may set some precedence.