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$21.1M for fall at Qwest Center

By Todd Cooper
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

It is believed to be the largest jury award in Nebraska history.

A Douglas County jury on Thursday awarded an Omaha-area man $21.1 million for the paralyzing injuries he suffered when the self-retracting lifeline attached to his harness failed as he worked on construction of the Qwest Center Omaha in 2003.

The award against DB Industries — also known as DBI/Sala, out of Red Wing, Minn. — tops the previous known high of $19.5 million awarded to a Lincoln woman in 2003 after she was paralyzed in a rollover crash.

Attorneys for DB have promised to appeal.

Robert Pahlke, one of several attorneys for Ronald “Tim” Bacon, had asked the jury to award Bacon $21 million — outlining during the eight-day trial millions of dollars in lost wages and past and future medical expenses.

Pahlke said Bacon, an iron worker, deserved the award. The 55-year-old, who has a grown son and daughter, will never walk again after the accident crushed a vertebrae and rendered him a paraplegic.

“I felt honored to represent him,” said Pahlke, a longtime Scottsbluff, Neb., attorney. “When we told him (the verdict), one of his first responses was, ‘I just hope that this will prevent this from happening to anyone else.’”

Here’s what happened on July 28, 2003:

Bacon, who worked for Davis Erection Co., had strapped his harness to a self-retracting lifeline designed to prevent falls. Pahlke said Bacon tugged his lifeline every so often just to make sure the brake worked.

This lifeline was designed to brake at 6 to 9 inches — and no more than 42 inches — to prevent a user from falling any farther.

Bacon and his crew were about to install steel decking on the second floor of a fire escape. Bacon was on top of the frame of the second level of the escape.

A crane operator was trying to load pieces of decking through the frame. But some of the decking fell out.

Bacon managed to knock away the first piece — and a fellow construction worker below credited Bacon for saving that worker’s life, Pahlke said.

But another piece or pieces caused Bacon to fall 12 feet and land on the first floor of the fire escape.

His fellow workers immediately believed that Bacon was dead, Pahlke said.

He wasn’t, but his injuries were devastating. Bacon was immediately paralyzed from the waist down.

Attorneys for DB Industries argued that four pieces of deck floor — weighing a combined 700 pounds — had hit Bacon’s line, rendering it useless.

Pahlke disputed that — arguing that one piece hit the line and that the line should have worked despite the impact. The line lists a maximum load of 310 pounds.

Since the accident, Pahlke said, Bacon has gone through two painstaking surgeries and will never walk again. He lives with chronic pain — and the constant threat of debilitating pressure wounds.

“You talk to somebody who has lost the use of their legs — and it’s really like a death to them,” said Pahlke, who represented Bacon along with attorneys Robert Hippe and Britany Shotkoski.

“He still has a long road ahead of him, and he still suffers from pain that he can’t predict. But emotionally, he’s gone through the grieving process and is at peace.” ....etc. See the full Article here....http://www.omaha.com/article/20110113/NEWS97/701149891/0#-21-1m-for...

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Comment by michael clifford on February 5, 2011 at 9:58pm
likewise know the limitations of fall protection, I've seen employees directed to use fall protection in ways that will cause equipment to fail, most retractable lifelines are meant for vertical falls, not horizontal, like being connected to steel cables run horizontally, or even hooking pelican hooks horizontally on scaffold, that are not rated for side impacts
Comment by Justin T. Wittwer on January 22, 2011 at 5:58pm

in light of the above article please remember that as our clients demand more fall protection do not underestimate the value of the pre-shift inspection and the manufacturer recomendations for service on any fall protection device. We are the first line of defense in saving our own lives in making sure our equipment is in proper working order before we have to use it. No one ever thinks they will fall. No one sets out to fall. Check it once, check it twice, but make sure you check it! Stay up, stay safe, stay connected.....

 

JW

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