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Washington Jury Returns Defense Verdict to WSHB Client

May 26, 2011

On May 26, 2011, a Seattle jury returned a verdict in favor of one defendant (represented by WSHB) and against another in a case arising from demolition activities on a construction site. The plaintiff, a clothing wholesaler in a neighboring building, claimed damage to property and profits resulting from its high-end women’s fashion inventory and samples being exposed to a large amount of dust. The source of the dust was contested. The defendant, a general contractor, was alleged to be liable for “demolition work” that caused the dust damage. The general contractor filed a third party claim against the demolition subcontractor, represented by Gordon Haushchild of the Seattle office of Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman, alleging that the subcontractor had a contractual duty to defend and indemnify the general contractor merely because the plaintiff blamed “demolition work” as the source of the dust. The demolition subcontractor denied negligence and denied having a duty to defend or indemnify absent proof that its negligence caused the plaintiff’s damages. At trial, plaintiff produced proof that the general contractor failed to properly prepare the building for construction activities, allowing large volumes of dust to escape the construction area. The general contractor argued that neither it nor any of its subcontractors were negligent or caused any dust in the plaintiff’s space, but if the jury did not agree, the only cause of plaintiff’s damages could be the demolition contractor. Throughout trial, the general contractor’s witnesses were forced to admit they did not perform its work improperly. Additionally, job sheets showed that the demolition subcontractor was not even on the job site at the time that dust was first reported by plaintiff to the general contractor. The demolition subcontractor showed that it had performed the same work for several days without incident, before and after the dust complaints, while the sandblasting subcontractor (not a party to the suit) was working at the time of each complaint, and the complaints stopped after the general contractor did additional work to patch holes in walls to prevent dust from escaping the sandblasting area. After a short deliberation, the jury awarded plaintiff $390,385, the full amount requested by Plaintiff, against the general contractor, and further rendered a defense verdict for WSHB’s client. As a result of the jury’s finding, WSHB and it’s client will be pursuing all costs against the general contractor.

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