Worker sues power plant over fall from ladder

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Mar. 5, 2009, 5:12am

GALVESTON – A Houston man says part of a scaffold installation caused him to slip and fall from a ladder at a Texas City plant two years ago, recent court documents say.

Gary Zella is suing T.P.I.S. Insulation Services LLC and Calpine Corp. in Galveston County District Court for injuries he sustained to various parts of his body as a result of a four-foot plunge at the Calpine Texas City Power Generation Plant on March 3, 2007.

Zella's personal injury lawsuit, which was filed on March 2, says the plaintiff was climbing a permanent ladder located on the premises' west side turbine enclosure when a loose scaffold board reportedly set up by T.P.I.S. shielded one of the rungs.

"As a result, (Gary) Zella fell off the ladder to the grating below," the suit says. "He struck his hip, shoulder, head, and other parts of his body."

Zella immediately sought medical attention.

According to the original petition, an Austin-area physician determined that Zella suffered a cervical disc herniation, a sprain of the right hip, a laceration of the left ear, and a contusion of the left side of the neck and shoulder.

Atlantic Plant Maintenance, Zella's employer, subsequently investigated the alleged incident.

"It determined that the accident was caused by scaffold boards being located to close to the ladder rungs that the plaintiff was required to use," the suit says.

T.P.I.S. is accused of neglecting to properly design the scaffold, building the scaffold farther apart to the ladder, and adequately mark the scaffold boards obstructing the ladder.

Calpine, in turn, is blamed for not accurately supervising T.P.I.S. as the latter prepared, designed, and installed the scaffolding.

"The plaintiff would show that his injuries and resulting damages are proximately caused, jointly and severally, by the negligent acts and omissions on the part of both Calpine and T.P.I.S.," the suit says.

Zella, who is represented by Beaumont attorney Steven C. Barkley, is suing for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and past and future medical treatment.

The plaintiff also demands a jury trial.

Galveston County 212nd District Court Judge Susan Criss is presiding over the case.

Case No. 09CV0274

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