A contractor that has built some of Charlotte’s biggest new apartment buildings is facing a lawsuit from a former employee, who says he was improperly fired after a superintendent beat him during a 2015 job.
Justin Driskell, a construction worker from Georgia, filed the suit against Summit Contracting Group, which is scheduled for a January trial in federal court in Charlotte.
Driskell alleges that he reported the superintendent at an apartment construction site for drinking on his lunch breaks and creating unsafe situations on the job. Rather than take action, the lawsuit alleges, Summit fired Driskell after the superintendent beat him in a parking lot and sent him to the hospital in retaliation.
A representative for Florida-based Summit declined to comment on the lawsuit. In court filings, Summit has denied Driskell’s accusations and alleged he contributed to the altercation and resigned voluntarily instead of being fired.
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The incident had its roots in a problem with the floors at the Circle University City apartments, a student housing community across from UNC Charlotte’s main entrance. When the floors began sagging in one apartment after a January 2015 party, the problem was traced to wooden trusses used to build the floors.
The owner, Charlotte-based Crescent Communities, moved all students out and started repairs. According to Driskell’s lawsuit, he was assigned to the job in June 2015.
“Justin was in for a rude awakening at the job site,” according to the lawsuit from Driskell, who is represented by Van Kampen Law. “The head superintendent...frequently got drunk during lunch, and acted in a belligerent and threatening manner to many around the job site.”
When Driskell reported his concerns to the project manager, the manager “simply stated that he was retiring soon and did not want to get involved,” according to the lawsuit. Driskell said some men were working without hardhats and safety equipment.
Driskell went so far as to call Summit’s president and owner, Marc Padgett, the lawsuit said. Another company official told Driskell that they did not want to remove the superintendent because they would have to explain that to Crescent, according to the lawsuit.
“Summit conducted a sham ‘investigation’ that included the investigator outing Justin as the complaining party,” the lawsuit says, “and an email to (Summit’s) owner stating Justin ‘needed to grow a pair of balls.’”
On July 20, things came to a head shortly after 8 p.m. at the Extended Stay America hotel on North Tryon Street, where some workers were housed during the job. In the parking lot, Driskell said the superintendent told him he was reassigning half his workers and would need to double production. When Driskell protested, according to the lawsuit, the superintendent told him “you’re going to f---ing figure it out or I’ll fire you,” and started punching him in the head and smashing his face into the pavement.
According to the lawsuit, Driskell was bloodied, and his father took him to the hospital. Doctors told him he had suffered head trauma and a swollen jaw, and that he should take bed rest for several days. He couldn’t get in touch with Summit, and the company claimed he had resigned, according to the lawsuit.
Driskell’s father, Tom Driskell, a superintendent at another Summit project, was also fired, according to the lawsuit.
Summit has denied all of Driskell’s allegations in court filings. In depositions and other statements filed as part of the company’s defense, Summit has claimed Driskell started the fight, repeatedly flipping off and advancing on the superintendent, and that he voluntarily quit.
Summit’s lawyers, with the firm Turner Padget, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The company is a prolific apartment builder, and is currently working on the $71 million renovation and new apartment construction at Atherton Mill in South End.
Driskell is seeking monetary damages to cover lost wages and emotional distress.