Worker Recovers $2,650,000 Settlement After Scaffolding Accident at Bronx Construction Site

Court and County

Bronx, Supreme

Plaintiff Description

Our client was employed as a driver and laborer for a scaffolding company based in Astoria, Queens. He was 38 years old on the day of the accident and had been working in the industry for 8 years prior.

Description of Case

This accident occurred on a construction site in South Bronx, New York. The Defendant scaffolding company was hired by defendants building owner and general contractor to erect and dismantle all the scaffolding for the project. The Defendant scaffolding company supplied the materials but hired our client's company to deliver and perform the actual erecting and dismantling of the scaffold.

On the day of the accident, our client went to his truck to deliver materials to the job site, as he had done many times before (he had been working on this site for about 2 months). He noticed, however, that the bundles of scaffolding frames were loaded upright instead of laying on their side. He complained that this was unsafe, but to no avail. An employee of the Defendant scaffolding company later said that the bundles are always stacked upright in order to stop them from rolling around, but that best practice is to have two workers unloading the frames for safety reasons.

Our client arrived at the site and parked his truck in the rear on an incline in an area where the foreman had directed him to park. This was a different location than where he had parked the day before. On this day he was directed to park closer to the sidewalk shed so the materials could more easily be passed up from the flatbed of the truck he was driving. Our client advised the foreman that the truck was parked on an incline and that it was dangerous to unload in this position, but the foreman was in a hurry to have the materials unloaded and directed our client to unload despite his concerns.

Our client was standing on the flatbed of the truck alone unloading the scaffolding. He cut off the metal bands that were holding a bundle of metal scaffolding pieces together (approximately 60 individual scaffold frames) when the bundle collapsed onto him. He was knocked down to the floor of the flatbed, striking his head and neck and losing consciousness. He was pinned down under the extreme weight of the scaffold frames until help arrived.

The Defendants argued that our client's activities were not protected under Labor Law 240 (1) because our client was not a covered employee as a driver under the labor law and because he was working at the same level of the scaffolding that caused his injury, and therefore there was no work being performed at an elevation or gravity-related hazard that required a safety device.

Our client made claims that the Defendants violated Labor Law 240(1) because they failed to provide proper safety devices for unloading the heavy scaffolding, a foreseeable gravity-related hazard. Our client made a motion for summary judgement under Labor Law 240(1), which was granted.

Injuries

Our client suffered a disc herniation at the C4-C5 level and multiple injuries to his right shoulder, including a SLAP tear. After more conservative treatment options including regular physical therapy and epidural steroid injections failed to relieve his pain, underwent cervical spinal fusion surgery at C4-C5.

Multiple medical experts argued on behalf of the Defendant that our client's injuries were degenerative in nature and not a result of the incident. These experts focused largely on the lumbar rather than cervical spine, however, and given that our client suffered direct impact to his head and neck, we successfully argued that our client's injuries and resultant surgery were caused by this incident.

Settlement

This case settled for $2,650,000.

Handling Attorneys

This matter was handled by Stephen J. Murphy and Michael J. Hurwitz.