An ironworker who fell more than 100 feet after scaffolding failed due to high winds in Chicago filed a lawsuit against general contractor Turner Construction Company and Adjustable Forms Inc., a concrete contractor.

According to the lawsuit, Jeffrey Spyrka, 36, was working from scaffolding on a project at the University of Chicago Cancer Pavilion on June 6, 2024, when a wind gust caused the southwest corner of the scaffold to separate. The scaffold section “swung violently away from the wall,” throwing Spyrka and another worker, David O’Donnell, into the air and eight stories to the ground.

Spyrka was critically injured, while O’Donnell died at the scene. Attorney Louis C. Cairo of GWC Injury Lawyers in Chicago, who is one of three lawyers representing Spyrka and has been retained by O’Donnell’s family, says Spyrka suffered life-altering, catastrophic injuries.

“The family is most thankful for the doctors who rushed out of the building almost immediately after the men hit the ground and immediately began trying to provide life-saving medical measures,” says Cairo. “The Spyrka family is thankful that those efforts have saved Jeff’s life, although they mourn the loss of David O’Donnell, who was a friend, a building trades brother and an amazing young man.”

 

The lawsuit alleges that Adjustable Forms failed to secure the scaffold properly, which would have prevented the structure’s corners from being separated during high wind conditions. Weather forecasts for June 6 called for gusts up to 40 mph.

The lawsuit alleges workers were assured that the scaffold system, which had recently been constructed up to the ninth floor, was structurally sound and safe to work on. O’Donnell, the last worker to access the scaffold, stepped onto the temporary structure and began conversing with Spyrka and another ironworker near the southwest corner of the scaffold. Soon thereafter, a gust of wind caused the corner of the scaffold to separate, and the southerly scaffold section swung away from the wall, throwing Spyrka and O’Donnell eight stories to the ground.

“These workers should have never been working on what turned out to be an unsafe, dangerous scaffold perched over 100 feet in the air,” says Cairo. “This was an absolutely callous act of negligence and misconduct by major construction companies who viewed progress on the job as their priority rather than the safety of the workers on the job. The evidence will prove that this was a totally preventable catastrophe.”

The scaffolding was secured to the building after the incident.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into New Horizon Steel, where Spyrka was employed. OSHA is also looking into Turner Construction, Adjustable Concrete and O’Donnell’s employer, Hi-Tech Stake-Out Inc.

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