Dallas Crane Collapse Raises Several Questions

Sunday June 9, 2019.

As heavy winds ripped through Dallas and other parts of Texas, a crane toppled and crashed into an apartment complex below leaving one dead, several other’s injured and hundreds of residents without a home. The apartments, known as Elan City Lights, were not even under construction. The crane was on an adjacent property where more apartments were being constructed.

What seemingly appears to be a freak accident took the life of a young lady and left over 500 looking for a new place to live due to the instability of the damaged apartments.  But was this really an accident?

Act of God vs Negligence

The law defines an “Act of God” as “a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent.” Examples would be damage caused by an earthquake, a hurricane, or a tornado.  Generally, an Act of God is an event solely attributable to nature and not human error. In the Dallas crane collapse, you had high winds and severe weather across the state.  There were even some tornado’s reported in other places.

At first glance, the Dallas crane collapse seems to fit the Act of God definition. However, sometimes events that appear to be nature-driven accidents have another explanation.  “Negligence” means the failure to act as an ordinary prudent person would have acted under similar circumstances.  When negligence is a contributing factor to a construction site accident like a crane collapse, the Act of God defense may not apply.

OSHA and Others Looking into the Cause of the Collapse

OSHA is currently investigating the cause of the collapse. It is interesting to note that Bigge Crane and Rigging had their own team of investigators on site the evening of the incident to “assist” OSHA int heir investigation. If the crane that a company leases or sells to a construction company fails due to a defect, they could face liability themselves. Thus, having them assist OSHA could be viewed as some as a bad idea since OSHA is effectively allowing a biased party into the fact-finding process.

Properly Maintaining the Crane

One question that OSHA will seek to answer is whether the crane operators properly maintained the crane before the Dallas crane collapse occurred. This crane was not in use at the moment it fell.  But it had been earlier. In fact, this crane has been sitting on this site for about a year.

When cranes sit in the same place for a year or more, it is foreseeable that there will be bad weather and/or high winds at some point. These cranes take significant time to raise and lower so you cannot just take it down when you are not using it. As a result, they are designed to withstand high wind.  Additionally, the proper procedure when ceasing operations of a crane include is to unlock the brake so that the arm of the crane can swing freely when heavy winds come up.  OSHA will be looking into whether this was in fact done.

In the Dallas crane accident, the crane in question was rated to withstand 95 mph winds.  Dallas only registered wind gusts in the 70s that day. Thus, all things considered, this crane should not have fallen despite the wind if two things are true: 1) the brake was in fact released, and; 2) the crane was properly constructed and kept.  The fact that it fell suggests that one or both of these things are not true.

Construction Site Accident Lawsuit Almost Inevitable

This kind of case is almost certain to wind up in the court system. Private companies are already circling up their “loss prevention” teams to try to assess and limit their own exposure. The blame game is quite common in these cases—the crane company blames the construction company, the construction company blames a subcontractor, someone else didn’t train them properly, someone else didn’t inspect. It is important for victims to hire their own construction accident attorney to represent their best interests early on in these cases so that they do not get left out in the cold.

If you have been injured in a construction site accident, Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. offers free consultations by calling 1-800-298-0111.

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Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005. He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017-2019, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give educational talks and media interviews regarding personal injury law issues..