A second lawsuit alleging negligence in an accident that caused two workers to plummet June 6 from scaffolding at an $815-million project being built at the University of Chicago Medical Center has been filed against Turner Construction Co. and Adjustable Forms Inc. of Lombard, Ill. 

The second complaint was filed June 20 in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of Christine O'Donnell, the mother of David O’Donnell, 27, a Local 130 technical engineer who died after being thrown to the ground from the 8th floor where he, and an ironworker, Jeffrey A. Spyrka, 36, a member of Local 1, were working on an exterior elevator shaft at the Comprehensive Cancer Center under construction in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. 

Spyrka suffered catastrophic injuries, but survived the accident. Both Spyrka and O'Donnell's family are being represented by personal injury firm GWC Injury Lawyers of Chicago, which names the general contractor, Turner, and the scaffold provider, Adjustable Forms, as responsible for erecting a scaffold that was “incredibly deficient,” according to a press release.

". . . the scaffold system was supposed to be designed and constructed in such a way that the sides of the scaffolding, where they meet to create a corner, would not inadvertently separate from each other in any manner, particularly where they could create a gap or opening in the floor of the scaffold system," the lawsuit states. 

GWC alleges that the scaffolding separated when subjected to an estimated 44-mph gust of wind. “The southwest corner that separated causing these catastrophes was not properly connected to be deemed a safe support for workers or material,” GWC alleges. 

The law firm also alleges that the scaffold did not have beams underneath the flooring, extending from the west scaffold to the south scaffold, which created a significant gap, it alleges, in the scaffold's structural support. It further alleges that a 3-ft gap between the two scaffolds was bridged with a 4-ft piece of plywood connected with three nails into the west scaffold and three into the south scaffold. 

“The point of failure was exactly at that bridge when the scaffolds violently shook, pulled apart at that corner, and the bridge, on which Spyrka was standing and [with] David O’Donnell inches away, simply disappeared and fell to the ground,” a GWC press release states.  

GWC also alleges that the scaffold was not designed or constructed to have an overlapping interlock at the corner, which is created when one scaffold extends and sits on top of the other with a substantial piece of blocking bolted so as to connect both scaffolds together, thus preventing separation. The law firm alleges that the two scaffolds should have been winched/locked together with cabling around the vertical columns above and below the floor deck area as a further means of ensuring that the scaffolds do not separate under any conditions. 

“Instead, they used a piece of plywood and 6 nails as if building a tree fort in one’s back yard rather than this massive structure to support multiple men and heavy equipment in reasonably foreseeable high winds,” the press release states. “The level of fault here is far beyond being negligent. It was a complete and total disregard for the health and safety of the workers on this scaffold.”

The law firm expects to add more parties to the lawsuits once the discovery process is begun and it learns the names of companies and others involved in building the scaffold system. 

Chris McFadden, a spokesperson for Turner, said "we are aware of the court filing, and we continue to fully support investigations underway by all relevant agencies and entities." 

Following the filing of the Spyrka lawsuit, which was filed in Federal Court in Chicago, Eric Lindquist, president of Adjustable Forms, said "we are aware of the recent filings and continue to be deeply saddened to learn of this accident ... Safety is integral to what we do, and Adjustable Concrete is partnering with Turner Construction to support a full investigation into this matter alongside the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)."