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Hennig v. Crosby Group Inc.

January 10, 1991

KIRK HENNIG, RESPONDENT,
v.
THE CROSBY GROUP, INC., APPELLANT



En Banc. Callow, C.j. Utter, Brachtenbach, Dolliver, Dore, Andersen, Durham, and Smith, JJ., and Pearson, J. Pro Tem., concur. Guy, J., did not participate in the disposition of this case.

Author: Callow

In the fall of 1983, the Port of Seattle engaged Hurlen Construction Company (the employer) to rehabilitate Pier 91 in Seattle. The construction company used a crane to replace old pilings at the pier via "pigeon holes" opened through the deck of the pier. A new piling would be lifted over the "pigeon hole" while a "pile buck" would position the 90-foot, 3,000-pound pile into place. After positioning the piling, the pile buck would signal the crane operator to let the pile fall into the sediment under the pier. The "pile buck" would step away when the pile was released.

During the course of operations on the morning of October 7, 1983, a screw pin, weighing 3 pounds, fell approximately 60 feet from an unused suspended shackle on the crane, striking Kirk Hennig (the employee) on his head. No employee of the construction company had inspected the crane rigging (cables and various pieces of hardware that attach to the item being lifted or moved) that morning as

the boom was still in the air attached to the last piling driven the day before. Although he was wearing a hard hat at the time, the blow fractured Hennig's spine. He is quadriplegic as a result.

The Crosby Group (the manufacturer) had manufactured the S-209 (13 1/2-ton load bearing) screw pin anchor shackle in approximately 1977. The shackle consisted of a rounded shackle bow which served as a nut and a separate pin which served as the bolt. The pin had a rounded head with a hole in the middle. The hole allowed users to secure the pin by tightening it with a "spud wrench" once it was screwed into the shackle.

The pile stabbing process created a high degree of vibration in the crane and the rigging attached to the crane. The vibration apparently caused the screw pin to loosen, "walk out" and ultimately fall from the shackle bow.

The employee brought suit against his employer, the manufacturer, and the Port of Seattle. The trial court entered summary judgment dismissing his claims against both his employer and the Port. The case proceeded to trial on the employee's product liability claims against the manufacturer.

After a 5-week trial, the jury awarded the employee $1,972,263.04. Denying the manufacturer's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the trial court entered judgment for the employee. The Court of Appeals certified the case to this court.

Following oral argument before this court the parties settled the case, in part, leaving only the issue of whether the trial court erred in dismissing the Port of Seattle.

[1] One who engages an independent contractor is not liable for injuries to the employees of the independent contractor. Tauscher v. Puget Sound Power & Light Co., 96 Wash. 2d 274, 277, 635 P.2d 426 (1981).

The general rule is that the owner of premises owes to the servant of the independent contractor employed to perform work on his premises the ...


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