Families sue contractors over UChicago fatal scaffolding collapse

Death and severe injury occurred at site of cancer center development

Fatal Scaffolding Collapse at UChicago Prompts Lawsuits
Rendering of cancer center and hospital, which will be located at East 57th Street between South Maryland and Drexel Avenues (The University of Chicago Medical Center, Getty)

The families of construction workers who were killed and critically injured in a fall at a University of Chicago construction site are suing the general contractor and a subcontractor for failing to take adequate safety measures to prevent the accident.

David O’Donnell, 27, from Oak Forest, died on June 6 after falling from scaffolding at the site of UChicago’s future cancer center near Maryland and 56th streets. Jeffrey Spyrka, 36, was critically injured and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center.

O’Donnell’s family plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Turner Construction and Adjustable Concrete Construction, Block Club reported. Meanwhile, Spyrka and his wife have filed a negligence and loss of consortium lawsuit against the companies in Cook County Court, seeking $200,000 in damages plus court costs.

Louis Cairo, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, claimed that drone footage showed deficiencies in the scaffold construction, contributing to the accident. The lawsuit alleges that the scaffold system was improperly constructed, allowing sections to separate and causing Spyrka to fall 80 feet when the scaffold’s corner connection failed.

The lawsuit claims Turner Construction negligently assured the crew of the scaffold’s safety and failed to warn them of severe wind risks on the day of the accident. It also alleges a lack of adequate fall protection measures, the outlet reported.

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Adjustable Concrete’s president, Eric Lindquist, expressed sadness over the accident and said that both companies support a full investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

The Spyrkas’ next court date is scheduled for Aug. 14. It was the second incident at the site since construction began in September. A December incident resulted in two injured workers.

The $815 million cancer center will be the first freestanding cancer center in Illinois. The 575,000-square-foot, seven-story facility will include 80 inpatient beds, 90 exam rooms, a breast cancer center and radiation oncology services. The facility will consolidate treatments currently spread across five buildings on UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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