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Washington Court Affirms $150M Award for Victims of Seattle Crane Collapse

Washington, (Qnnflash) – Earlier this month, the State of Washington Court of Appeals upheld a significant $150 million jury verdict against subcontractors associated with the disassembly of a tower crane that tragically collapsed in 2019. The incident, captured on video, resulted in the loss of four lives and injuries to five individuals. Notably, the recent court ruling provides a detailed account of the alleged chain of events. Here’s an overview of the court’s findings:

The tower crane collapse originated from a construction project overseen by general contractor GLY Construction (GLY). GLY leased a tower crane from Morrow Equipment (Morrow), with Seaburg Construction providing the crane operator. As the construction neared completion, Northwest Tower Crane (NWTC) was engaged by GLY to dismantle the tower crane. NWTC subcontracted Omega, a mobile crane provider, to aid in lowering dismantled crane sections to the ground while NWTC’s ironworkers disassembled it.

The disassembly process commenced on Saturday, April 27, 2019. On that morning, GLY, Morrow, NWTC, and Omega held a safety meeting to address key aspects including leadership during disassembly, weather conditions, and load chart specifications for the mobile crane. Despite favorable conditions that morning, the forecast anticipated breezy weather with northwest winds ranging from 15 to 25 m.p.h. The mobile crane’s wind limits were set at 11 m.p.h.

A meticulously devised “lift plan” outlined the disassembly process, involving sixteen separate lifts performed by the mobile crane. Crucially, this plan required shortening the mobile crane’s main boom from 179 feet to 147 feet before executing the ninth lift, considered the most “critical.” Critical lifts demand over 75 percent of the mobile crane’s lifting capacity. Of the sixteen lifts, lifts nine through sixteen were designated as critical. Shortening the boom for critical lifts enhances the mobile crane’s lifting capacity. The tower crane’s slewing assembly, a massive and dimensionally significant part, presented an even greater challenge due to its weight. The mobile crane’s operating manual advised against attempting such a lift in winds exceeding 8 m.p.h.

Contrary to the lift plan, Omega’s mobile crane operator undertook the critical lift of the slewing assembly without shortening the boom. The mobile crane struggled to hoist the assembly, prompting NWTC’s ironworkers to intervene unsuccessfully. The mobile crane operator decided to detach the mobile crane to reconfigure it, while NWTC’s ironworkers continued dismantling the tower crane by removing securing pins.

When the mobile crane was ready approximately 30-45 minutes later, the operator noted wind speeds of “22-27 miles per hour,” leading to a shutdown for the day. Destabilized by the wind, the dismantled tower crane ultimately collapsed onto a busy street, resulting in fatalities and injuries.

Omega contested the verdict on various grounds, including the trial court’s denial of presenting evidence related to a “Mary Carter” agreement between plaintiffs and another defendant. A “Mary Carter” agreement is a settlement where a plaintiff allies with one defendant against another, setting a liability cap for the settling defendant, who remains a defendant in the case. This agreement incentivizes the settling defendant to implicate the non-settling defendant and is often admissible to demonstrate bias. However, Omega lacked concrete evidence of such an agreement, leaving the court to uphold the verdict. The court also rejected Omega’s other appeal grounds, likely to be further appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. The case remains a subject of interest.

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