Crane Accidents

Windows’ Settlement Reached in Crane Deaths at Miller Park

01/9/06

Milwaukee

The families of three ironworkers killed in a 1999 crane collapse at Miller Park have reached a settlement in their lawsuit against insurance companies and the contractor hired to install the ballpark’s roof, their attorney said Monday.

The exact amount was not disclosed, but Robert Habush, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, called the settlement “substantial and fair.” The amount is in addition to the $27 million clients already received, he said.

The agreement concludes more than six years of legal wrangling over the liability in the ironworkers’ deaths. The families alleged that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, which was the roofing contractor, and Lampson International, which leased the crane, acted with disregard for the workers’ safety.

“They should have never lifted the crane that day – because of the wind, it was too unsafe,” Habush said.

Ralph Weber, lead attorney for Mitsubishi, deferred comment until later Monday afternoon so he could review the case’s documentation.

Ironworkers Jeffrey Wischer, William DeGrave and Jerome Starr were killed in July 1999 while working on the construction of Milwaukee’s Miller Park. They were trying to guide a 450-ton piece of the stadium’s roof into place from a safety basket held aloft by a crane. As they worked, another crane fell, smashing them to the ground.

Widows Patricia Wischer, Marjorie DeGrave and Ramona Dulde-Starr sued the contractor in August 1999. The jury awarded them $5.25 million in compensatory damages and $94 million in punitive damages.

On appeal in September 2003, the 1st District Court of Appeals threw out the $94 million award, ruling the Legislature had intended to limit such awards to cases in which a defendant acted with malice or intent to harm. The appeals court ruled 2-1 that Mitsubishi did neither.

The state Supreme Court overturned the appeals court decision in March 2005, saying punitive damages were justified but declining to say whether the amount was excessive.

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