Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter
On June 6, 2005, two workers, Herman Calloway, Sr. and Herman Calloway, Jr. (father and son), were working at the bottom of a 12-14 foot deep trench, installing storm pipes on a construction project managed by Bovis Lend Lease. Because this trench was greater than 5 feet deep, OSHA requires that the trench be protected from cave-in by some form of support. Typically this would involve the use of a trench box, a large steel frame that can prevent the side walls from collapse. On this day, however, two problems precluded use of the trench box: (1) a manhole structure that did not afford enough room to fit the box in the trench, and (2) a buried ComEd line that could cause electrocution if it touched the metal trench box. Contrary to OSHA guidelines and Bovis’ own site-specific safety plan, no substitute protection system was used. Two Bovis superintendents had been standing beside the unprotected trench observing the Calloways working in the trench without sufficient shoring prior to the collapse. Neither stopped the work or told the men to place proper shoring. The east wall of the trench caved in, burying the Calloways alive. More than an hour after the collapse, fellow workers and fire and rescue personnel were able to extricate Herman, Jr. from the trench. His pelvis was crushed and he was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition. After the extrication of Herman, Jr., the search and rescue mission shifted to recovery mode for Herman, Sr., who died in the trench. After multiple surgeries and prolonged hospitalization, Herman, Jr. is able to walk short distances with the assistance of a cane, but remains permanently disabled from any type of work. Bovis was sued for construction negligence, failing to ensure workplace safety. The case proceeded to trial in January 2011. The jury awarded Herman, Jr. in excess of $8 million dollars.