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Fault Standoff
by Ron Davis

Efforts to pinpoint blame for a construction worker’s near-fatal fall from the roof of an Ohio shopping center have resulted in a standoff.

The shopping center that was the scene of the accident is the Jeffersonville Prime Outlets in Jeffersonville. And the worker who suffered severe injuries there had been summoned to assist a contractor who was having problems with the replacement of a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.

The general contractor for the job was Retail Construction, which in turn had hired Columbus Mechanical to remove and replace the existing HVAC units. Retail Construction had also hired a roofing company to attend to the sizable holes created in the shopping center roof after removal of the existing HVAC units.

Columbus Mechanical duly removed three HVAC units from the shopping center roof and affixed devices for the placement of the new HVAC units. Employees then covered the existing holes with available materials. But none of those materials were of the type that would ensure that the holes would be watertight.

As fate would have it, a heavy rainstorm that night in Jeffersonville caused water to leak into the retail stores below, resulting in major damage. The next day, Retail Construction’s on-site supervisor instructed the Columbus Mechanical workers to suspend the HVAC work on the roof. Moreover, because of the rainstorm, the crew from the company scheduled to install materials for the HVAC units did not show up the day after the rainstorm. When the rain ceased, however, the worker who was destined to fall from the roof got the assignment from his company to investigate the roof scene and recommend a course of action.

Once on the roof, the worker conducted an examination and began seeking a solution. Instructed to cover the holes “temporarily to stop the leaks,” he began assisting another worker unroll plastic sheeting. While doing so, he stepped backward and fell through a hole covered only by insulation board and plunged to the concrete floor below. He suffered severe injuries as a result.

In his subsequent lawsuit against Retail Construction, the worker reached a settlement agreement. But in his lawsuit against Columbus Mechanical, an Ohio court ruled in favor of that contracting firm. The injured worker appealed, and an Ohio appellate court ruled that a jury must decide whether workers of Columbus Mechanical failed to provide a warning to the worker as to the roof holes and the material used to cover them. (Nibert v. Columbus/Worthington Heating & Air Conditioning, 2010 WL 1177337 [Ohio App. 12 Dist.])

Decision: April 2010
Published: April 2010

Thanks for the Memories

More than 20 years have passed since I began offering my legal-writing services to Nielsen and its predecessors. Almost all of that time was spent working with and for the highly talented Lynda Gutierrez. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’m sorry to see it end. But I hope to continue offering my freelance services to those in need of a business/legal writer and researcher. For anyone interested, I can be reached at roncdavis@bellsouth.net.

Again, thanks for all these memorable years.




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