A Philadelphia jury has awarded $2.25 million to a construction worker who was injured when a concrete-pumping hose struck him on the head and caused him to fall into a basement.
On Nov. 26, following an eight-day trial before Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul P. Panepinto and a little over three hours of deliberation, an eight-member jury found defendant Trans-Fleet Concrete 50 percent negligent and 50 percent vicariously liable for its agent, 5 Star Concrete Pumping, which was not a named defendant, according to court documents and an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The verdict came down just after plaintiffs Hildo and Maria DeFranca settled with defendant Albino Concrete Construction Co., the general contractor, for $500,000 prior to closing arguments, according to court documents and plaintiffs counsel.
In DeFranca v. Albino Concrete Construction, according to the plaintiffs’ pretrial memorandum, plaintiff Hildo DeFranca was an employee of Girafa Construction Inc., which was a subcontractor of Albino.
Albino hired Trans-Fleet to supply a pump truck and cement for cement masonry work on a job site in Perkasie, Pa., according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
On March 22, 2010, DeFranca was standing on top of the forms of a basement wall, guiding the cement hose between the forms, when the hose became clogged, the plaintiffs said in their memorandum.
When the clog suddenly dislodged, the pressure caused the hose to whip back and forth, striking DeFranca on the head and causing him to fall into the basement below, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
DeFranca suffered a cerebral concussion, a chronic brain injury and several cervical and thoracic spine fractures, herniations, strains and sprains, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said.
The plaintiffs said in their memorandum that, prior to the clog that caused DeFranca’s accident, the operator of Trans-Fleet’s pump truck had dislodged two other clogs by disassembling the hose.
When the third clog occurred, however, the pump truck operator revved the engine to force the clog through the hose, causing the hose to whip violently and strike DeFranca, the plaintiffs alleged in their memorandum.
According to the plaintiffs’ memorandum, the whipping hose is a well-known hazard discussed in several publications of the American Concrete Pumping Association, of which Trans-Fleet is a member.
“These same publications provide for standards and rules for pump truck operators that the defendants failed to follow,” the plaintiffs said in their memorandum.
The plaintiffs alleged in their memorandum that Trans-Fleet, “acting through its agent and alter ego” 5 Star, was negligent for “failing to properly operate, maintain, inspect, clean, prime and prepare the pump truck and pump truck hose.”
“To prevent hose-whipping the pump truck line must be properly prepared, the concrete must be properly mixed, and in no circumstances should a clogged line be freed by forcing the clog through,” the plaintiffs said in their memorandum. “Rather, the clog must be freed by dissembling the line and freeing the clogged concrete by hand or hand tools.”
The plaintiffs said in their memorandum DeFranca now suffers from a significant loss of short-term memory, cannot properly process and retain information and is emotionally unstable.
According to the plaintiffs’ memorandum, neurological expert Dr. Richard Ivins’ evaluations of DeFranca in 2011 and 2013 show that DeFranca’s condition has been deteriorating.
DeFranca’s estimated lost wages were between about $778,000 and just over $1 million, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
Trans-Fleet maintained in its own pretrial statement that it had no involvement in DeFranca’s accident and that none of its vehicles or employees were even present at the job site on the day of the accident.
The plaintiffs further alleged in their memorandum that Albino failed to maintain a safe work site in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Act standards.
But Albino argued in its own pretrial statement that it did not owe a duty to employees of Girafa, which was an independent contractor.
Ultimately, the plaintiffs settled with Albino just prior to closings for $500,000 and the jury subsequently found against Trans-Fleet, awarding $2 million to DeFranca and $250,000 to his wife, Maria DeFranca, according to court documents and plaintiffs counsel, Andrew J. DuPont of the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.
Counsel for Trans-Fleet, William H. Resch Jr. of McCormick & Priore in Philadelphia, declined to comment on the case.
Counsel for Albino, Jonathan D. Herbst of Margolis Edelstein in Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment at press time.