Shook Attorneys Discuss Ways Companies Can Defend Against Crane Litigation

Shook, Hardy & Bacon Orange County Managing Partner Douglas Robinson, Orange County Associate Gabriel Spooner and Kansas City Associate Brandon Gutshall authored a May 10 Law360 article, “When Cranes Collapse, Cos. Don’t Have to Follow,” examining ways to prevent and defend against crane litigation.

The authors recommend that owner and general contractors clearly define responsibilities in contracts, outlining exactly who is responsible for worker training, equipment inspections and jobsite safety. In addition, owners must ensure that they abide by their own safety policies, as “one of the easiest targets for a plaintiff attorney in crane litigation is a company who has robust safety policies, but fails to follow them.”

For crane operators, Robinson, Spooner and Gutshall suggest three kinds of preventative measures that should be in place: maintenance, inspection and certification/training. The attorneys note that regular maintenance and inspection are key to ensuring machines are safe, observing that “a significant decline in the number of crane-related fatalities and injuries in California was seen after training and testing from 2004 to 2008 produced more than 10,000 certified operators in the state.”

The authors also advise manufacturers to be aware that, “OSHA identifies four of the major cause of crane accidents as: (1) contact with power lines; (2) overturns; (3) falls; and (4) mechanical failures.” Manufacturers should continue to improve their designs and manufacturing processes, as well as develop appropriate warning labels.

Robinson, Spooner and Gutshall conclude, “With damage claims potentially reaching into the $100 million range for one accident, all parties involved in the use of construction cranes, with counsel from their attorneys, must take preventative measures to protect themselves, and each other, from financial and physical ruin.”