$2,200,000 Settlement for Plumber Who Injured Back in Ladder Fall

Court and County
Supreme Court, Queens County

Plaintiff Description
Our client was a 28-year-old non-union plumber at the time of the accident.

Description of Case
Our client was working on a construction project involving the renovation of commercial buildings into private residences. Our client's employer had been hired to perform plumbing work on the project.

To access different floors of the project, workers used scaffold stairs that had been put up in the elevator shaft. At the time of the accident, however, the scaffold stairs between the first and second floor had been removed. Instead, one section of a two-piece extension ladder was placed between the first and second floor. This ladder was not nailed down, tied off or secured in any way.

Our client was climbing down the ladder from the second floor to the first floor when the ladder shifted, causing his foot to slip and for him to fall backwards to the ground below. When this fall occurred, he was holding the ladder with one hand and a tool with the other.

Our client moved for Summary Judgment on the issue of liability, seeking the court hold Defendant owner and general contractor responsible for the accident. Our client argued that Defendants failed to provide a safe place to work in violating New York State Labor Law Sections 240(1) and 241(6), which requires ladders being used to access different levels to be nailed or fastened in place. Our client alleged that this unsecured ladder was a violation of Labor Law 240(1) and Labor Law 241(6).

Defendants cross moved for Summary Judgment on the issue of liability seeking dismissal of the case. Defendants argued that our client was the sole proximate cause of the accident, presenting witnesses who stated that while our client was coming down the ladder, he was holding tools in both hands and not holding the ladder. They argued that our client's failure to hold onto the ladder caused the accident to occur. The Defendants also argued that our client knew the ladder was unsecured and that he wasn't supposed to use it, but should have used the stairs located at the rear of the project instead.

Injuries
After the fall occurred, our client immediately felt pain in his neck and lower back. He was transferred to a local hospital where he was treated and soon released.

Several days later, our client visited a pain management physician with complaints of neck and low back pain, which was radiating to his lower extremities and left arm. He began a course of conservative care, including physical therapy, lumbar trigger point injections and lumbar epidural steroid injections.

MRI tests later revealed disc herniations at C5/6 and L5/S1. Due to a worsening of his condition, our client underwent two surgical procedures, including a lumbar decompression at L5/S1 and a cervical fusion surgery at C5/6.

Our client had a prior motor vehicle accident three years before the ladder fall. Following that accident, our client underwent conservative care, including physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and lumbar epidural injections for two years. That treatment ended roughly 10 months before this ladder fall occurred. Prior MRI exams revealed disc herniations at C5/6 and L5/S1, the same levels that were eventually operated on following the ladder fall accident.

Our client argued that the ladder fall exacerbated and activated his prior cervical and lumbar conditions, resulting in the need for both surgeries. Defendants argued that the surgeries were completely unrelated to the ladder fall, but were required due to injuries sustained in the prior motor vehicle accident.

Settlement Amount
$2,200,000

Handling Attorneys
Partners Jeffrey A. Block and S. Joseph Donahue settled this matter during mediation. At the time of the settlement, our client's Summary Judgment motion and the Defendant's cross motion for Summary Judgment were pending and had not yet been decided.