$3,000,000 Settlement for Worker with Ulnar Nerve Damage, Multiple Herniated Discs & Shoulder Injuries

In a New York case, an elevator technician was working on the top of a disabled elevator when he fell through particle board where a steel escape hatch should have been. The particle board was painted to look like the standard steel escape hatch. As a result of the accident, he suffered serious injuries, including ulnar neuropathy in his left elbow, multiple fractures to his shoulder, and herniated discs in his neck. Represented by the Law Firm of Block O'Toole & Murphy, he received $3 million in compensation.

Court and County
New York County Supreme Court

Plaintiff Description
Our client was 41 years old and working as an elevator repairman on the day of the accident.

Description of Case
Our client was working in an elevator shaft on top of a disabled freight elevator when this accident occurred. Although he was not aware of it, the escape hatch at the top of the elevator had been removed and replaced with particle board instead of the steel hatch that was supposed to be there. Furthermore, this particle board had actually been painted to make it look like the standard steel hatch.

Our client was not made aware of this change before he began his repair. While he worked at the top of the elevator, he stepped onto the painted particle board, and the board immediately gave way, causing our client to fall into the elevator, his left arm and shoulder getting caught on the edge as he fell. As a result of this accident, our client alleged violations of New York State Labor Law 240(1), commonly known as the Scaffold Law.

The Defendants argued that the Scaffold Law did not apply in this scenario because our client was performing general maintenance rather than repair work. They also argued that the hatch door did not represent an intended safety device but was a permanent structure and thus not within the scope of 240(1). We made a motion for summary judgement, and the motion was granted.

Injuries
Our client's left arm and shoulder was caught on the lip of the escape hatch when he fell, and he began to feel pain immediately. Emergency services transported him to the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital, and over the next few weeks he was diagnosed with the following injuries:

  • Left shoulder dislocation with a bony bankart glenoid fracture and small posterolateral humeral head Hill-Sachs impaction fracture
  • Left shoulder SLAP tear and torn rotator cuff
  • Left elbow ulnar neuropathy
  • Cervical disc herniation at C4/5 and C5/6

To treat his many injuries, our client had to undergo many surgeries over the following months, including but not limited to:

  • Left elbow ulnar nerve decompression with anterior transposition and stabilization
  • Left shoulder rotator cuff debridement
  • Left shoulder suprascapular nerve release
  • Open repair of anterior glenoid fracture in left shoulder
  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion at C4/5 and C5/6

The Defendants argued that the cervical spine injury was from a prior accident, and that the accident in question did not cause any further trauma to the spine. Other defense experts argued that while our client would not be able to return to his former employment as an elevator repairman, he has a versatile skill set which could gain him employment in other sedentary or light duty roles.

Settlement Amount
This case settled for $3,000,000.

Handling Attorneys
This matter was handled by Senior Counsel Michael J. Hurwitz and Partner Stephen J. Murphy.

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