Case against Georgia Pacific Corporation settled

posted on:
January 2, 2008

author:
Jere Beasley

Beasley Allen settled a wrongful death case recently against Georgia Pacific Corporation that arose out of a workplace incident. On April 18, 2002, IM & MC, LLC, a construction company which was located in Dothan, Alabama, was the general contractor on a job under contract with Georgia Pacific to remove and replace a portion of the roof on an old plywood building on Georgia Pacific’s premises in Cedar Springs, Georgia. 

The roof of the building at the time was in a bad state of repair. Scott White, an employee of the contractor, was performing work on the roof and fell through the roof. The incident occurred as Mr. White and another employee were carrying a large tin sheet and Mr. White stepped on a rotten part of the roof. He died the following day as a result of his injuries.

A lawsuit was filed by the widow against the contractor and Georgia Pacific. The trial judge granted summary judgment for the contractor because under Georgia law Mr. White was considered an employee because he did not have a written contract that designated him as an independent contractor. We proceeded against Georgia Pacific because of the control it had over the property and the control and direction it exercised over the work performed on the roof. The general contractor testified on deposition that Georgia Pacific supplied the materials and rented the equipment needed for the job. Georgia Pacific also had a project manager who inspected the work on a daily basis.

The building on the Georgia Pacific premises had a concrete floor and at the time was being used as a storage facility. Georgia Pacific had a maintenance program that required regular inspections of its buildings to provide for repairs; however, this building was not a part of the program because it was not a production facility. A Georgia Pacific representative testified in deposition that the roof was leaky, degraded, and unsafe. The area of the roof to be removed consisted of about 8,000 square feet. The contractor had been working on the roof for about 4 days when the employee fell through an old tin sheet that had deteriorated. According to its own safety policies, Georgia Pacific had a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to require that adequate fall protection systems were in place and were being used on this project.

Mr. White was on his first day working on the roof when he fell through the roof. Georgia Pacific never warned Mr. White of any dangers associated with getting on the old roof. Mr. White was required to handle large sheets of tin while on the roof. Although required by the corporation’s policies, Georgia Pacific never asked the general contractor for certifications relating to OSHA requirements for fall protection measures, and none were in place on the day of the incident. Many workers testified there were no secure places to tie down while on the roof at the place where Mr. White fell. The general contractor also testified by way of a sworn affidavit that the size of the tin sheets provided by Georgia Pacific was too long and he informed Georgia Pacific of that problem. The general contractor was told by Georgia Pacific to overlap the tin 12-15 feet, which required the workers to get on the existing roof to do the work. According to the contractor, no one from Georgia Pacific instructed him not to allow workers to work on top of the roof. Since this incident, Georgia Pacific has demolished the old plywood building where Mr. White fell to his death.

The case was settled shortly after mediation which was conducted by Alan Livingston, a Dothan lawyer, who is an effective mediator. While the amount of the settlement is confidential, our client is satisfied with the settlement. Julia Beasley from Beasley Allen and Ben Freeman of the Law Firm of Prim, Freeman, & Mendheim, LLC from Dothan handled the case.

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