$4,450,000 Settlement for Brooklyn Laborer Who Fell While Stocking Shelves, Suffering Brain and Spine Injuries

Court and County
Supreme Court, Kings County

Description of Plaintiff
Plaintiff was a 44-year-old construction laborer at the time of the accident.

Description of Accident
Plaintiff, along with a small crew of co-workers, was hired by a kitchen supply company to help it move from one Brooklyn warehouse into a new Brooklyn warehouse. He and his crew first worked in the new warehouse, performing interior demolition and constructing large commercial shelving units. Then, the crew was sent to the company's existing warehouse to box up materials for transport to the new space. That process of boxing lasted approximately 10 days. Once complete, the workers were tasked with moving the boxed merchandise into the new warehouse, and onto the new shelving they had constructed about a week and a half earlier. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was attempting to place a heavy box containing granite countertops onto a high shelf. In order to reach the shelf, Plaintiff stood on a wooden palette that was laid atop the forks of a forklift, as the forks were raised into the air. A co-worker was operating the forklift. While trying to push the box onto the shelf, the forklift moved, causing Plaintiff to fall down 15 to 20 feet to the floor below and sustain serious injuries.

This case was heavily defended. The Plaintiff's claim depended on his being covered by New York Labor Law Section 240(1), which applies only to workers engaged in construction-type activities. The defense argued that Plaintiff's work of shelf-stocking did not fit within the protection of the Statute, and that while his previous work of demolition and shelf construction was a covered activity, that work had already been completed a significant time prior to his accident. We argued, on Plaintiff's behalf, that the Statute was intended to protect construction laborers like Plaintiff who are placed in dangerous elevated positions, and that the entire job of moving warehouses should be viewed as one job; thus, if any portion of the work was covered by the Statute, then Plaintiff should be deemed covered during the entire project. The trial Court adopted the defense's position and dismissed the case.

We refused to stop fighting for the Plaintiff and appealed the decision on his behalf. After briefing and argument before the Appellate Division, we prevailed. The appellate court agreed that Plaintiff was a worker who deserved the protections of the Labor Law under these facts. As such, the lower Court decision was reversed, and the lawsuit was reinstated and proceeded toward trial.

Injuries
Plaintiff sustained multiple facial and skull fractures, as well as broken ribs. A craniotomy with evacuation of subdural hematoma was performed on the date of incident. He also suffered spinal injuries, which were treated with therapy and injections and ultimately led to a lumbar fusion surgery. In addition, Plaintiff sustained right shoulder injuries for which he underwent arthroscopic surgery. We claimed damages including past and future medical costs, past and future lost earnings and pain and suffering.

Settlement Amount
Shortly prior to trial, this case was settled for $4,450,000.

Handling Attorneys
This case was handled by firm Partners Stephen J. Murphy and David L. Scher.