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Thompson v. Post & McCord

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

March 10, 1911

LENA THOMPSON, as Administratrix, etc., of EDWARD ANDERSON, Deceased, Respondent,
POST & MCCORD, Appellant.

Page 395

APPEAL by the defendant, Post & McCord, from a judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of the plaintiff, entered in the office of the clerk of the county of New York on the 16th day of December, 1909, upon the verdict of a jury for $2,770, and also from an order entered in said clerk's office on the same day denying the defendant's motion for a new trial made upon the minutes.


Frank V. Johnson, for the appellant.

G. Washbourne Smith, for the respondent.


This is a statutory action to recover for the death of Edward Anderson, alleged to have been caused by the negligence of the defendant, a domestic building corporation. The defendant had the contract for furnishing and erecting the structural ironwork

Page 396

on the building known as the City Investment Building, at the southwesterly corner of Broadway and Cortlandt street, extending through to Church street, in the borough of Manhattan, New York, the dimensions of which are 311 feet by 130 or 140 feet, and the decedent was in its employ classified as an ironworker. The accident occurred on the 22d day of June, 1907. At that time the structural ironwork had been completed to the sixth floor and partly above that point. The defendant employed a general superintendent and two assistant superintendents, one for the easterly and the other for the westerly half of the building. Under the superintendent and assistant superintendents the employees were divided into small gangs of from five to seven or eight men performing separate functions under the immediate direction of a 'pusher' or foreman. There were six erecting--or derrick--gangs, three employed on the easterly and three on the westerly half of the building. Each of these gangs had a derrick operated by steam power from an engine in the basement or at the ground floor, and their duties were to hoist the iron girders, columns and floor beams, and put and fasten them together, with the exception of the riveting work, which was done by eight other gangs known as riveters. All of the members of these gangs were classified as ironworkers. The gang with which the decedent was working consisted of one Edwards, a pusher or foreman, and seven other men including the decedent. The members of each gang were assigned to duties by the pusher. One of the members was known as a bellman, and it was his duty to communicate signals given to him by the pusher or other members of the gang, or which from his experience he knew it to be his duty to give, to the engineer by pulling a bellcord. Another was known as the stickman. He had charge of steadying the beam while the derrick was in operation and of moving the boom from right to left when required, which he could do by pulling on a stick or lever inserted in a socket, whereby the mast of the derrick would revolve, taking the boom around with it. Two members of the gang were known as hookers-on or tag-line men and, acting separately or together, performed the duties of passing a sling around the material to be hoisted and hooking the fall into the sling and then, as the load was lifted from the ground or floor, they or one of them attached a guy rope thereto,

Page 397

by means of which the load was steadied and guided while it was being hoisted. The other members of the gang were known as connecters, and it was their duty to receive the iron when hoisted to the position for which it was intended, and to assist in landing it in the proper position and temporarily connect it, when necessary, by inserting bolts and screwing on nuts to secure it in place until the riveters completed the work. On the day in question the derrick used by decedent's gang was on the sixth floor, where it had been used for some time. It was evidently a very high derrick, for it had a boom seventy-five or eighty feet long, and while it was necessary to lower and raise the boom and swing it from right to left at times, it is to be inferred that it was not necessary to move the derrick after it had once been placed in position on a given floor. Perpendicular column beams had been installed, extending up to the ninth floor, but the horizontal column beams to connect them had not been put in place. Edwards announced to the members of his gang his intention to hoist three column beams to connect the upright columns in the same panel on the seventh, eight and ninth floors, and the boom of the derrick was swung to the proper position for the performance of this work. The column beams were on the sixth floor and were about fifteen feet in length, one foot in depth, as they would be in place in the floor, and they had flanges at the top and bottom about five inches in width, and the web was about three-eighths of an inch in thickness and weighed from 600 to 800 pounds. A sling was passed around one of the beams and the fall was attached, and the beam was hoisted to the seventh floor, Edwards riding upon it and signaling the bellman with respect to swinging and lowering it into place. The upright column beams were about fourteen inches thick by twenty or twenty-two inches wide, and on the sides to which these horizontal column beams were to be attached they had flanges extending out from five to seven inches, and between these flanges at the respective floor lines lugs were attached to the column beams of the same width as the flanges, forming shelves on which the ends of the horizontal column beams were to rest. The horizontal beams were designed to extend from one upright to the other, and there was only a margin of a quarter of an inch between the length of the horizontal column beams and the longest distance between the upright column beams. The

Page 398

practice was, as these facts would seem to require, to swing one end of the horizontal beam into place and then to elevate the other end sufficiently to pass the flanges of the upright, and then to drop it into place. There were two holes in each end of the horizontal beams and corresponding holes in the lugs. The connecters carried bolts and wrenches for the purpose of securing columns in place temporarily, when necessary; and in some instances, where the method of attachment was quite different, a horizontal beam would not remain in place after the fall was detached without being bolted. One of the connecters assisted Edwards in landing this column, and two others had gone above, evidently with a view to receiving one of the other columns to be hoisted. As soon as this column was put in place at the seventh floor, Edwards called out, 'All off,' from which the bellman understood that he should signal the engineer to slacken the cable so that the sling could be unhooked. This was done, and the bellman then signaled the engineer to allow the fall to be lowered. The cable was steel, and in order to bring the hook on the fall down to the floor from which the load was to be hoisted, it was necessary to attach a weight between the block and the hook. A cast steel ball about twelve or fourteen inches in diameter and twenty-two inches in length, somewhat oval in shape and weighing from 600 to 800 pounds, was used for this purpose; and as the cable was let out by the engineer on a signal from the bellman, this weight took the block and fall down. The decedent and one Cunningham were, and had been for a considerable period of time, acting as the hookers-on or tag-line men. Usually, Cunningham hooked on and the decedent attached and attended to the tag line. Cunningham passed a sling around the column intended for the eighth floor and hooked it on, and the bellman, who was on the same floor and in a position to observe this, signaled the engineer to hoist the load, and it was lifted a few feet above the floor and then stopped for the purpose of steadying it and attaching the guy rope. The decedent attached a guy rope near the ball which has been described, and extended it along and nearly to one end of the column, and then took a turn of it around the column with a view to steadying and guiding it as it was hoisted. The bellman again, without further direction, concluded that everything was ready and gave the signal to the engineer to hoist at full

Page 399

speed until notified to stop. The signal was obeyed and it clearly appears that the load was hoisted while decedent was stooping over coiling up the guy rope to prevent its fouling, and before he was ready to guide it, and before Cunningham was able to go to his assistance in guiding it, with the result that the ball struck one end of the beam which had just before been put in place at the seventh floor, but had not been secured in place otherwise than as already described, and the end was lifted from the lug, and either in consequence thereof or because the beam which was being hoisted also struck the seventh floor beam, that ...

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