Chicago/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 20, 2024
Family of Worker Who Died at University of Chicago Construction Site Files Lawsuit, Citing Safety FailuresSource: Unsplash/Tingey Injury Law Firm

The family of David O'Donnell, a 27-year-old construction worker who tragically died in a fall at the University of Chicago's new cancer center, has taken legal action. The accident, which occurred earlier this month, also left another worker, Jeffrey Spyrka, critically injured. The lawsuit filed by the O'Donnell family is directed against Turner Construction and Adjustable Concrete Construction, the contractor and subcontractor respectively involved in the project. According to a statement obtained by CBS Chicago, the scaffold from which the workers fell was allegedly "incredibly deficient" and the companies did not properly ensure safety measures were in place.

Detailed in the complaint are claims that the structure was not adequately secured to withstand high wind conditions. On June 6th, a 44 mph wind gust hit, which is said to have precipitated the collapse. Ironically, the scaffolding should have been designed to quickly withstand winds up to 80 mph. CBS 2 cameras caught the scaffold swaying in the aftermath of the incident, with efforts then made by crews to stabilize the remaining structure. O'Donnell's family's attorneys pointed out a specific safety gap issue, with a statement by attorney Louis A. Cairo, saying, "The point of failure was exactly at that bridge when the scaffolds violently shook, pulled apart at that corner, and the bridge, on which Jeff Spyrka as standing and David O'Donnell was inches away, simply disappeared and fell to the ground," as CBS Chicago reported.

In a separate lawsuit, Spyrka has also brought allegations of negligence against both Turner and Adjustable Concrete. The second survivor's legal complaint echoes many of the same safety concerns raised by O'Donnell's family. Additionally, pursuant to a WLS report, it was suggested that workers had previously voiced worries regarding the scaffold's stability.

Representatives for the companies involved have publicly expressed sympathies and a commitment to cooperate with the investigations. According to Eric Lindquist, president of Adjustable Concrete, they are "deeply saddened to learn of this accident," and he offered his condolences, as stated to CBS Chicago. Turner Construction, via spokesman Christopher McFadden, said they fully support the ongoing probes by relevant agencies. "We are aware of the court filings, and we continue to fully support investigations underway by all relevant agencies and entities," McFadden expressed. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has committed to conducting an investigation into the accident to determine compliance with the mandated safety procedures and equipment use.