When a worker is injured on the job, it’s tragic.  It’s even more tragic when that employee is left a paraplegic.

When that same worker and his wife are awarded $41 million by a jury against a general contractor, it’s noteworthy.  It’s particularly noteworthy in Connecticut, which is not known historically for its high jury awards.

When the Connecticut Supreme Court throws out the entire jury award and directs a verdict for the defendant — a contractor — it’s remarkable.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Monday in Pelletier v. Sordoni/Skanska Construction Co. (download here).  The Connecticut Law Tribune has the details here (available free):

A defense judgment directed by the Connecticut Supreme Court has saved a New Jersey contractor more than $41 million in legal liability to a paraplegic who was injured when a defectively-welded girder fell on his head.

In addition to the setback the high court dealt Norman Pelletier and his wife Reine, the unanimous verdict also found contractor Sordoni Skanska wasn’t liable because the accident was not foreseeable.

Peter T. Zarella, writing for the court, found that Waterbury Superior Court Judge Jon Alander improperly found that Connecticut’s construction code created a non-delegable duty for the contractor to make sure the welds were inspected for the benefit of welder Pelletier, among others.

The decision will have more impact for those in the construction industry, than employment, because it allows some contractors to delegate duties without risk of liability.  But one obvious reason why workers sometimes try to sue parties other than their employer is the fact that workers compensation acts as a bar to such claims.

Kudos to Dan Krisch, the current chair of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section for his representation of the defendant in this case.