When a demolition worker was badly injured in a fall at a burned-out Moncks Corner rubber plant, the three companies that had a hand in the job began passing his compensation claim around like a hot potato.
But the worker, Dustin Griffith, was finally able to prove that the plant owner was an “upstream employer” and responsible for his claim, which was settled July 20 for $360,000, according to his attorney, David L. Hoffman Jr. of North Charleston.
Griffith was employed by J & A Sons in Georgia, which had been hired by Meadow River to do a demolition job at a Rubber Recovery plant after it was damaged in a fire. Halfway through the job, Meadow River fired the owner of J & A, but Griffith and his fellow employees decided to stay and finish the work.
Griffith was torching through a steel mezzanine when a beam sprung loose and knocked him off his stand. He hurt his back and legs, and the bones in both his arms were shattered in the fall. He underwent several surgeries to repair the damage, Hoffman said.
J & A argued that it wasn’t responsible for Griffith’s workers’ comp claim because he was an employee of Meadow River or an independent contractor at the time of the accident. Meadow River contended that Griffith was still an employee of J & A. And Rubbery Recovery denied responsibility by asserting that it wasn’t in the demolition business, which is why it hired Meadow River.
“Everyone’s trying to pass the buck,” Hoffman said. “It was a very, very difficult case.”
Hoffman said he had to track down transient employees of J & A and Georgia-based Meadow River – both companies were uninsured – to prove his client’s case. They testified that they thought Griffith was working for Meadow River when he fell, Hoffman said.
“Once the heat was on Meadow River, that redirected its efforts away from [disproving] my client to trying to prove that Rubber Recovery was an upstream employer … that the buck stopped with Rubber Recovery,” he added.
The S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission ultimately found that Rubber Recovery was, in fact, responsible for Griffith’s claim and the company agreed to settle the case, according to Hoffman. Unlike the other defendants, Rubber Recovery carried insurance.
Attorneys for Rubber Recovery and Meadow River could not be reached for comment. J & A was pro se.
Injuries alleged: Broken arms, leg and back injuries
Case name: Dustin Griffith v. J & A and Sons Recycling, et al.
Case number: 1013312
Court: S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission
Tried before: Now-retired commissioner G. Bryan Lyndon, then full commission
Settlement date: July 20, 2012
Insurer: The Hartford, SC Uninsured Employers’ Fund
Attorney for plaintiff: David L. Hoffman Jr. (North Charleston)
Attorneys for defendants: Lisa C. Glover (Columbia); T. Jefferson Goodwyn (Columbia); Morgan T. McQueeney (Mount Pleasant)