National Lumber held liable for worker's injuries Brick mason fell when scaffold broke

May 08, 1992|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

A Baltimore circuit judge has ruled that National Lumber Co. caused injuries at a construction site by misrepresenting the quality and safety of lumber it sold.

Judge Hilary D. Caplan said yesterday he awarded $469,000 to a brick mason, William A. Gorman III, who injured his spine because scaffold lumber he bought from National Lumber broke.

In a ruling issued April 29, the judge found that despite National's slogan of selling "Everything for building," National does not sell lumber that meets safety standards for high scaffolds.

"It seems the motto in this case should be changed to 'Everything for building but scaffold-grade lumber,' " Judge Caplan said.

Douglass A. Datt, attorney for National Lumber, said he disagreed with the judge's ruling and was considering an appeal. Mr.

But in court documents, Arnold Fruman, who runs the lumberyard founded by his grandfather, said National did not sell scaffold-grade lumber. Instead, he said, National employees warn anyone who asks for scaffold lumber that they are buying rough spruce boards at their own risk. Scaffold-grade lumber is stronger and more expensive.

Mr. Fruman had argued it was the workers' responsibility to make sure they were using safe scaffold boards.

But the judge disagreed, noting that other contractors testified they asked for and received what they thought were scaffold-grade boards from National.

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) laws require contractors to use scaffold-grade lumber on their scaffolds, said John Wenzel, a spokesman for the state's safety agency.

Mr. Gorman, a Parkton resident, went to National Lumber on Pulaski Highway in April 1989 and asked for 10 scaffold boards.

The workers at National Lumber sold him rough spruce boards about 2 inches thick, 10 inches wide and 16 feet long.

About a month later, on May 15, 1989, Mr. Gorman and Joseph Kenny of Manchester were standing on one of the boards at a construction site in Parkton when the board split, sending the two men plummeting 30 feet to the ground. Mr. Gorman landed on his feet, damaging his spine. Mr. Kenny landed on Mr. Gorman and fractured some ribs.

Both men were rushed to a hospital. Mr. Kenny's injuries healed, and he went back to masonry work by July. He was awarded $16,455 for his medical expenses and other damages.

But Mr. Gorman was severely injured and had surgery to install supportive rods in his spine. He testified that he is still in pain and can no longer do masonry work.

Judge Caplan awarded Mr. Gorman, 37, the law's maximum award, $350,000, for pain and suffering. The judge also awarded about $34,000 to cover all of Mr. Gorman's medical expenses and $10,000 for lost wages. He also granted Mr. Gorman and his wife $75,000 for damage to their marriage.

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