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Worker struck with dropped tool settles just before trial

An injured commercial plumber settled negligence claims against a subcontracting firm for $750,000, according to his attorney.

Todd Johnson of Votava Nantz & Johnson in Kansas City said his client was injured Dec. 6, 2016, at a commercial construction site in Shawnee, Kansas. A worker who was climbing through the rafters to install a fire-protection system dropped a metal tool onto the plaintiff’s head from a distance of 15 to 20 feet. The plaintiff was not wearing a hard hat at the time of the incident.

Johnson said his client suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and was treated and released at a local emergency room. Later that month, the plaintiff began to display uncontrollable movements such as far-off stares and convulsions and was diagnosed with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, or PNES.

Although the incident occurred in Kansas, the suit was filed in Missouri due to the residence of the parties, Johnson said. The plaintiff alleged the employer of the worker who dropped the tool should have taken precautions such as taping off the area where its employees were working and using tethering devices on its tools.

Johnson said the defense argued plaintiff should have been wearing his hard hat and that his failure to do so contributed to his alleged injuries. The plaintiff testified the hat fell off as he was working at ground level.

Johnson said several facts complicated the case, including that the plaintiff had a 30-year history before the incident of depression and bipolar disorder, and that he was in an auto accident after the construction-site incident.

The parties also contested whether Missouri or Kansas law applied to the claims and damages that could be obtained. Johnson said the trial judge had ruled that Missouri law would apply at trial.

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