Our firm recently settled a case in which an Alabama employee was killed when a freight elevator fell three stories.
The employee was unloading supplies from an elevator when the cable that raised and lowered it broke, resulting in the elevator collapsing. The worker was pulled into the falling elevator and was tragically killed.
When installed by the manufacturer, the freight elevator included a safety brake, referred to as a falling platform safety device. This device was designed so that if the elevator dropped or fell, a cam mechanism would cause the brake to turn into the guide rail, lock into place, and keep the elevator from falling.
Our investigation found that the cam brake system had not been adequately inspected and maintained. We also learned that the elevator had fallen under similar circumstances without injury being caused to anyone on that occasion. If proper measures had been taken by servicing the freight elevator, the employee would not have died.
The victim left behind his fiancé, three children, and other family members.
In this case, our firm sought worker’s compensation benefits from the employer and justice against several co-employees for what we asserted was “willful conduct” as defined under the Worker’s Compensation Act.
An employee injured on the job in Alabama is limited to benefits payable under the Alabama Workmen’s Compensation Act. Two exceptions to this statutory limitation are:
- When the injury was caused by a third party, such as a product manufacturer who sells a dangerous or defective piece of equipment to the employer
- When the injury was caused by the willful conduct of a co-employee
- Section 25-5-11(c), Code of Alabama, provides that “willful conduct” of an employee can occur when the co-employee has “[a] purpose or intent or design to injure another” or where a co-employee participates in the “willful and intentional removal from a machine of a safety guard device provided by the manufacturer of the machine.”
Alabama courts have found that in some circumstances the removal or the failure to maintain a safety device is equivalent to the removal of that device and can constitute willful conduct.
In some instances, an employee may find that he can do the job easier or more quickly if the safety device is removed. Suppose another employee comes along after that and is injured due to the removal of the safety device. In that case, the co-employee who removed the safety device may be found liable for willful conduct.
In other instances, a maintenance person may fail to maintain the safety equipment on a machine, which may make the machinery unsafe to operate. In such instances, Alabama courts have also found that a co-employee may be found liable for willful conduct as defined in section 25-5-11(c).
Beasley Allen attorney Ben Locklar represented the family in this case. If you or someone you know are in a similar situation, please do not hesitate to contact the Beasley Allen Law Firm for a free case evaluation.