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1975 U. Ill. L.F. 393 (1975)
The Illinois Structural Work Act

handle is hein.journals/unilllr1975 and id is 403 raw text is: THE ILLINOIS STRUCTURAL WORK ACT

The Illinois Structural Work Act,1 commonly known as the Scaffold Act,
was enacted in 1907 during a trend toward safety legislation,2 that predated
passage of state workmen's compensation laws. The Act creates a general
standard of safety for certain structural devices and provides a cause of action
against persons having charge of the work for injuries occurring from viola-
tions of its safety standards. The original purposes of the Act were to
increase safety in construction work and to facilitate actions by an employee
against his employer for injuries caused by dangerous working conditions.
The Act eliminated the common law defenses of assumption of risk and con-
tributory negligence which had proven too effective in immunizing employers
from liability.3
Efforts by the Illinois legislature to provide adequate and assured com-
pensation for injured workmen culminated in the passage of the Workmen's
Compensation Act4 of 1911. Under this Act, employees surrendered all rights
of action against their employers in return for a guaranteed recovery under
the statute. As a result, private actions under the Scaffold Act virtually
ceased for many years. Beginning in 1952, however, injured construction
workers began to use the Structural Work Act to recover against general con-
tractors, owners, and other third parties, because section 29 of the Workmen's
Compensation Act, forbidding compensated workers from suing third parties,
was declared unconstitutional.5    Consequently, workers in structural in-
dustries now have two sources of recovery: first, against their employer for
benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act; second, against contractors,
owners, and other third parties for damages under the Structural Work Act.
If the latter action is successful, the plaintiff receives full compensation for
his pain and suffering and for his out-of-pocket losses. This common law
computation of damages can give a successful plaintiff an award that dwarfs
1. ILL. REy. STAT. ch. 48, § 60-69 (1973). The most important sections of the
Act read as follows:
§ 60. All scaffolds, hoists, cranes, stays, ladders, supports, or other mechani-
cal contrivances, erected or constructed by any person, firm or corporation in this
State for the use in the erection, repairing, alteration, removal or painting of any
house, building, bridge, viaduct, or other structure, shall be erected and constructed,
in a safe, suitable and proper manner, and shall be so erected and constructed,
placed and operated as to give proper and adequate protection to the life and limb
of any person or persons employed or engaged thereon, or passing under or by the
same, and in such manner as to prevent the falling of any material that may be
used or deposited thereon.
§ 69. Any owner, contractor, subcontractor, foreman or other person having
charge of the erection, construction, repairing, alteration, removal or painting of
any building, bridge, viaduct or other structure within the provisions of this act,
shall comply with all the terms thereof, and any such owner, contractor, sub-
contractor, foreman or other person violating any of the provisions of this act shall
be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
For any injury to person or property, occasioned by any willful violations of
this act, or willful failure to comply with any of its provisions, a right of action
shall accrue to the party injured, for any direct damages sustained thereby....
4. ILL. REv. STAT. ch. 48, § 138.1-.28 (1973).
5. See Grasse v. Dealer's Transp. CO., 412 IIL 179, 106 N.E.2d 124 (1952).

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