Protecting Your Rights | Personal Injury

How a Structural Building Violation Ended in a Major Court Case

In 2008 and 2009, John R. Sutton and Sutton Law Group worked on the case Worthington Communities Inc. vs. Mejia in the Florida Second District Court of Appeals. The case revolved around a construction worker who ended up paralyzed seeking damages from the owner of the site he was building. The case was of national interest, not only because of the tragic nature of the accident, but because of the law precedent it stood to set.

Here’s how the hierarchy of a construction project normally goes. The property that needs to be built is owned by an owner. The owner hires a general contractor to build the property. The general contractor then hires various subcontractors to complete the different jobs that need to be done on the project – such as plumbing, scaffolding, electric, etc.

Generally, if a construction worker gets injured on the job, they can only seek worker’s compensation benefits from their employer. That employer may be one of the companies that was subcontracted to do a specific job on the work site, or possibly even the general contractor. A construction worker cannot seek benefits from the owner of the property – since the owner is not directly involved in anything that made the work site unsafe and led to the accident.

Of course, there is a rare exception to the rule: when the owner is also the general contractor. In this case, the owner is operating in the position where they can create a dangerous environment that leads to construction accidents. It can also happen when the owner is not technically the general contractor, but is behaving as one for all intents and purposes.

In the case of Worthington vs. Mejia, the property owner of several condominiums was also acting as the general contractor for a construction project. A structural building violation led to a 3,700 pound bundle falling on one of the construction workers, Mr. Mejia, leaving him paralyzed. Mr. Mejia and his wife sued the property owner, arguing that his role as the general contractor left him responsible for creating an unsafe work environment.

The court agreed, awarding the Mejias damages of $6.5 million dollars. When Worthington appealed the decision, the court once again found him responsible (with the help of our fearless leader John R. Sutton.) This led to a major win and payday for the Mejia family, but also a new legal precedent. If the property owner cannot be sued for construction accidents, and the general contractor can be, when they are one and the same, they still get sued.

At Sutton Law Group, we know how dangerous construction accidents can be. We also know how valuable the damages can be to those victims of workplace accidents, in their time to heal and pay for recovery. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, contact Sutton Law Group today! We are dedicated to protecting your rights.

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Sutton Law Group

Sutton Law Group is a leading Miami law firm that has served both personal and business clients since 1985. We provide legal services in the areas of personal injury, commercial litigation, construction injury, real estate, criminal defense, and estate planning.

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