Facts & Allegations
On Aug. 19, 2013, plaintiff Terrence B., construction worker, was in the process of moving a vertical stack of plywood at a construction work site. Subsequently, the entire stack, weighing approximately 600 pounds, suddenly toppled over him, throwing him to the ground and crushing his right foot. Buckner briefly lost consciousness and was pinned under the stack for 30 minutes.
Terrence B. was rushed to the emergency room. His foot had been crushed and he suffered multiple fractures and a dislocation of one of his joints. The following day, he had surgery to repair his foot. Over the next few weeks, Terrence B. continued to experience significant pain, from which he has never fully recovered. He continues to suffer partial paralysis in his injured foot and an abnormal gait from his inability to move one of his toes. Additionally, when the pile of plywood collapsed on him, Terrence B. was thrown to the concrete floor, falling directly on his tailbone and hitting his head as he fell. The impact caused noticeable neck and back pain. While Terrence B. was in the hospital, his neck and back pain were mostly masked by his pain medications, but by September 2013, his neck and back pain became more noticeable and severe. Cervical and lumbar MRIs revealed a narrowing of the spinal passages for the nerves and fluid buildup. A nerve conduction and EMG study, revealed that Buckner now suffers from lumbar radiculopathy
Following the incident, Cal/OSHA performed an investigation and cited the subcontractor, CONCO, with violating Cal/OSHA rules against unsafe vertical stacks of plywood. Cal/OSHA also cited the general contractor, Nibbi Brothers, with a housekeeping violation.
Terrence B. sued Nibbi Brothers General Contractors, St. Anthony Foundation, a charity and owner of the property where the incident took place, and Hkit Architects, an architectural firm based in Oakland.
St. Anthony Foundation and Hkit Architects were dismissed from the case and Buckner continued against Nibbi Brothers General Contractors only.
Defense counsel for Nibbi denied liability and brought a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Nibbi was exempt from liability under the Privette/Toland/Hooker line of cases, and that Terrence B.’s sole remedy was Workers’ Compensation.
On April 14, 2017, the court denied Nibbi’s motion and found that evidence showed Nibbi had retained some control of safety at the worksite, including control of the premises during off hours and control of the first floor. Further, it was alleged that Nibbi had knowledge of and encouraged unsafe vertical stacks of plywood around the work site. The court found that Plaintiff’s evidence presented a prima facie case verifying that Nibbi’s conduct affirmatively contributed to Terrence B.’s injuries.
After Terrence B.’s lawsuit survived summary judgment, the case subsequently settled at mediation for $950,000. Plaintiff’s counsel additionally settled the $156,054.11 Workers’ Compensation lien for $20,000, with an agreement that no credit would be unsettled in the underlying Workers’ Compensation case.