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Wrobel v. Trapani

264 N.E.2d 240 (1970)

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Wrobel v. Trapani

Illinois Appellate Court

264 N.E.2d 240 (1970)

Facts

Edward Wrobel worked for John Hillesheim, a subcontractor of Bennett Trapani (defendant), a general-contractor home builder. Wrobel was standing on a ladder he placed outside to work on a second-floor window while a Trapani employee, Leo Townsend (defendant), worked on the inside of the window. Wrobel did not know what rung he was standing on, but his knees were lower than the top rung. Townsend lowered the upper sash of the window, causing Wrobel to fall. Townsend believed he lowered the sash half an inch, but Wrobel testified Townsend lowered the sash four inches. Townsend testified that Wrobel aligned the ladder’s right rail with the left side of the window, and that the ladder only reached the window’s bottom edge. Townsend also testified that normally the top of a ladder is placed near the top of the window, on the side where the work was to be done. Trapani and Donald Stewart, a safety engineer, testified that the highest rung a person should stand on was the fifth from the top and that the worker’s body should be between the rails. Trapani testified that the ladder’s position did not meet safety standards. Wrobel sued Trapani for negligence and Townsend for willfully violating the Structural Work Act (the Act). Trapani filed a third-party suit for indemnification against Hillesheim (defendant). The trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of Hillesheim. Trapani appealed. Wrobel was not part of the appeal. Trapani argued he was entitled to indemnification from Hillesheim on the theory of active-passive indemnity. Trapani also argued for a new trial because there were questions of fact for the jury. Trapani argued that his violation of the Act was passive in nature and Hillesheim’s conduct was active. Trapani argued that his responsibility was merely general supervision and coordination of the project, meaning he was the lesser delinquent and Hillesheim was the active delinquent. Hillesheim argued that the active-passive theory did not apply because the act of Townsend, Trapani’s employee, was shown to be a proximate cause of Wrobel’s injury.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (English, J.)

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