$4,000,000 Settlement for Back Injuries Resulting in Spinal Stenosis

Our client was injured in a falling accident at work due to a lack of proper safety equipment. He suffered knee and back injuries, requiring a 2-level lumbar spinal fusion surgery that left him with severe spinal stenosis. The case was initially dismissed following the Defendants summary judgement motion regarding liability. However, our attorneys successfully appealed and had that motion overturned, and the case settled for $4,000,000.

Court and County
Supreme, Queens

Plaintiff Description
Our client was working as a union carpenter at the time of the accident.

Description of Case
Our client and his co-worker were working to install a large piece of sheetrock over a doorway at a construction site. The only equipment in the room was an A-frame ladder. However, the ladder was not tall enough to perform this work in its proper open position. There was also insufficient room to fully open the ladder, because they were working within a stairwell and space was tight. To compensate for the lack of proper safety equipment, our client was instructed to keep the ladder closed and leaned against a wall.

He put a few initial screws in place so that he no longer had to hold the panel of sheetrock. At first, our client's co-worker was holding the bottom of the ladder steady but was called away to help on something else. While our client was at the top of the ladder holding a screw gun and preparing to insert more screws, he felt the ladder begin to pull away from the wall. He grabbed the ladder with both hands as he fell on his back and onto a concrete deck, the ladder landing on top of him.

The attorneys from Block O'Toole & Murphy contended that he should have been furnished with a Baker scaffold rather than an A-frame ladder to safely perform his duties. The Defendants argued that our client was the sole proximate cause of the accident because he used the ladder in the closed position, and their summary judgement motion was granted by the trial court, initially dismissing the case. However, we successfully appealed the motion and had that decision overturned.

Injuries
Our client felt immediate pain in his lower back and left knee. He went home but was totally unable to sleep, prompting him to call his employer the next morning and tell him he needed to go to the emergency room. At the hospital, he was given an immobilization brace for his knee and diagnosed with multiple severe injuries:

  • Lumbar Spine Injuries: Herniated disc at L4/5 with midline radial annular tear, causing stenosis of the lateral recesses with L5 nerve root impingements bilaterally
  • Herniated disc at L5/S1, resulting in a prominent right lateral recess stenosis and impinging on the right S1 nerve root
  • Bulging discs at L1/2, L2/3, and L3/4
  • Reactive edema at vertebral endplate margins (bone bruises)
  • Right convexity of the lumbar curvature
  • Left Knee Injuries: Nondisplaced fracture of tibia extending into articular surface
  • Medial patellar chondromalacia involving the weight-bearing portion of the medial femoral condyle
  • Strains of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Synovial effusion with synovitis

To treat his back injuries, our client required numerous procedures on his lumbar spine:

  • Direct decompression of the left L5 nerve root, with total facectomy, laminotomy, foraminotomy and discectomy
  • Direct decompression of the left S1 nerve root, with total facectomy, laminotomy, foraminotomy and discectomy
  • Posterior interbody fusion, L4/5
  • Posterior interbody fusion, L5/S1
  • Application of biomedical device, PEEK cage, L4/5
  • Application of biomedical device, PEEK cage, L5/S1
  • Posterior instrumentation, L4/5 and L5/S1
  • Use of allograft bone graft

He also needed to have a total knee replacement surgery, but this had to be delayed while our client recovered from the surgeries he had on his lumbar spine. He eventually had the total knee replacement, and a medical expert claimed it was likely our client would require multiple left knee revision surgeries in the future.

Settlement Amount
$4,000,000

Handling Attorneys
Partners Scott Occhiogrosso and Daniel P. O'Toole handled this matter.