Section: aPR PAGE: 05

Date: 01/22/98

Head: Chesterton man awarded $2.4 million.

By: Times Staff Report

A jury awarded a record $2.475 million verdict against Pepper Construction

Company late Tuesday in a case brought by a Chesterton man injured on a

construction site.

Benjamin Walker, 38, twisted and jarred his back when he stepped into an

uncovered floor hole while carrying a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of plywood. Walker

was a journeyman carpenter working for Gateway Concrete on the renovation of

Trinity Hospital in Chicago Feb. 24.

Pepper Construction Company was the general contractor on the work site.

Walker had several back surgeries as a result of the accident, accumulating

almost $150,000 in medical bills and $1 million in past and future wage loss.

He has been unable to work as a construction carpenter since the accident,

although he briefly returned to work as a security guard.

According to Walker's attorney Kenneth J. Allen, "Pepper had full

responsibility for safety on this work site and they simply choose to ignore"

Occupational Safety and Health rules requiring all floor holes be securely


"Pepper risked the safety of workers on this project by ignoring OSHA and

willfully deciding not to cover floor holes of 6 inches or less. They gambled

and Walker, who was simply doing his job, lost his health and his career in

construction as a result.

"We are gratified that the jury's verdict recognizes the enormity of the

loss suffered by Walker and his family."

The jury deliberated two hours after hearing more than two weeks of

testimony and considering dozens of exhibits before reaching an unanimous

verdict for Walker. The verdict is the largest injury award ever rendered in

the Sixth District Courthouse Complex in Markham, Ill.