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$39M Verdict Upheld in Parking Garage Incident

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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The Wisconsin Court of Appeals recently upheld a $39 million verdict against Advance Cast Stone, the firm that built the O’Donnell Park parking garage in Milwaukee where a 15-year-old boy was killed by a concrete slab that fell.

What Happened

In June 2010, a 13-ton, decorative pre-cast concrete panel fell off the side of the structure, killing 15-year-old Jared Kellner and injuring Amy Wosinski and her son Eric.

During the trial, it came to light that out of the 70 panels that were installed during the structure’s construction in 1989, only a few were done to specification, which included attaching the panels to the wall via four predrilled holes with stainless steel rods and grouted sleeves.

Workers instead, however, drilled two holes at the construction site and hammered steel rods into place. The firm testified that the decision was made to use the “drill and pound” method because the holes in the wall and the panels did not align.

However, there was no record of an official change order and only certain employees said that the change was verbally approved, though the contractor who reportedly gave the order denied doing so.

It was this decision that led the jury to find ACS guilty of intentionally concealing or misrepresenting a defect or deficiency in its installation of the concrete panels, holding the firm responsible for the incident.

The Case

In November 2013, a jury awarded the $39 million to the family of Kellner, along with the Wosinskis, and and Milwaukee County.

In February 2014, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley ruled that ACS’s insurance company, Liberty Insurance Co., was responsible for paying most of the money. Foley said in his ruling that the insurance company “breached its duty to defend” the firm, because Liberty argued that the builders took actions with the knowledge that a catastrophic accident was likely to occur, negating the insurance company.

While the appeals court upheld the $39 million, however, the court did roll back the responsibility of the insurance company, saying that the insurer is now only responsible for ACS’s policy limit, which was $10 million.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; concrete; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; North America; Parking Garages; Safety; Specification

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