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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Texas Supreme Court grants take-nothing judgment in case of pipefitter injured in scaffolding fall

By Laura Halleman | Jul 19, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) – A scaffolding company has won a take-nothing judgment in a lawsuit over the fall of a pipefitter from scaffolding.

The Texas Supreme Court released its decision in favor of United Scaffolding on June 30.

James Levine worked as a pipefitter for Valero Energy Corp. and was employed at Valero’s Port Arthur refinery. In December 2005, Levine worked an overtime shift in the refinery’s alkylation unit. Levine and the rest of the crew, all Valero employees, were to do routine maintenance and install two blanks into an exchanger as part of their employment.

This job required Levine and other crew members to use scaffolding made and provided by United Scaffolding Inc. (USI) more than 15 feet above the ground.

Levin alleged that he slipped on a piece of plywood that had not been nailed down properly. He alleged that he fell up to his arms through a hole in the scaffolding, and suffered a neck injury as a result.

The suit states that USI was required to inspect all scaffolding at the refinery prior to each work shift and the use of any scaffolding. USI assembled the scaffolding one week prior to Levine and the rest of the crew using it and was not present at least three days' prior to Levine’s fall, the petition states.

Levine sued USI, “claiming that USI improperly constructed the scaffold and failed to remedy or warn of the dangerous condition on the scaffold, causing the injury.”

A jury trial found USI negligent in December 2008 and awarded Levine $178,000 in damages for future medical expenses, but excluded award any damages for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental anguish or loss of earning capacity.

Levine demanded a new trial and in February 2014 and the jury awarded $2.2 million in damages to him.

USI understood that it could have filed a “petition for writ of mandamus” before the second trial began, but declined to do so. USI then asked for the court to void its choice.

The U.S. Supreme Court of Texas thus reversed the verdict and rendered a take nothing judgment in USI’s favor.

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