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From Products Liability Law Daily, February 27, 2014

Whether maker of scaffolding components or designer/installer of scaffolding were liable for worker’s injury for jury

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Whether a manufacturer defectively designed scaffolding components or the installer failed to use the components and equipment, which it rented from the manufacturer, in accordance with applicable safety standards raised genuine issues of fact, the federal district court in Puerto Rico held in denial the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment on the installer’s third-party complaint (Gonzalez-Diaz v. UpStage, Inc., February 25, 2014, Gelpi, G.).

Background. A worker, Steven Gonzalez-Diaz, was injured when scaffolding installed by UpStage, Inc., collapsed. The worker sought personal injury damages against the installer who filed a third-party complaint against the manufacturer of scaffolding, Safway, LLC, and its insurer. The manufacturer moved for summary judgment, asserting that the installer failed to use the scaffolding components and equipment rented from the manufacturer in a manner that it could not have foreseen and that the scaffolding structure was not designed or erected in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Foreseability. Based on the evidence presented, including expert witness reports, the court enumerated several disputed issues that mitigated against granting the manufacturer’s summary judgment motion. First, with regard to the question of whether the installer complied with OSHA standards regarding necessary qualifications for staff, the evidence showed that not even the installer’s expert was able to determine if the installer’s staff members were qualified within OSHA standards. Second, the installer contended that the manufacturer’s failure to train the inspector led to inadequate inspection of the planks. However, the manufacturer countered that its inspector evaluated the scaffold loads once the scaffolding was completed but did not formally inspect the site or examine how the planks were installed and fastened, thus pointing to defective design or installation as the cause of the accident. According to the court, the adequacy of the inspector’s training, the installer’s compliance with OSHA regulations, and the thoroughness of the site inspection were all relevant to the question of foreseeability, which was essential to the underlying tort claims. These issues and the determination of whether the incident was foreseeable were all questions for the jury.

Adequacy of safety guidelines. The expert reports submitted by each party also raised a question as to whether the manufacturer’s safety guidelines were adequate to provide the necessary information to qualified persons to place the planks properly for installation purposes and to recognize the inherent dangers of the scaffolding structure in this case also raised a question for jury resolution on the installer’s failure-to-warn-claims.

The case number is 11-1689 (GAG).

Attorneys: Francisco E. Colon-Ramirez (Colon, Colon & Martinez PSC) for Steven Gonzalez-Diaz and Conjugal Partnership Gonzalez-Doe. Jorge Carazo-Quetglas (Carazo Quetglas Law Office) for UpStage Inc. and Cooperativa de Seguros Multiples de Puerto Rico. Jenyfer Garcia-Soto (Sepulvado & Maldonado, PSC) for Safway, LLC

Companies: UpStage Inc.; Safway Services, LLC

MainStory: TopStory DesignManufacturingNews WarningsNews BuildingConstructionNews PuertoRicoNews

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