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$1,400,000 Settlement for Union Carpenter Who Lost Fingertips in Saw Blade Accident

Supreme Court, Queens County

At the time of the accident, plaintiff was a 27-year-old carpenter working in the union as a member of Local 608.

Plaintiff was a union carpenter employed by a general contractor performing work on a Queens construction site. While operating a table saw, the plaintiff suffered injuries to the middle and ring fingers of his left hand. The focal question of law in this case was whether or not the owner of the construction site could be held liable under New York State Labor Law § 241(6) for the injuries that plaintiff sustained while he was working on the site and inadvertently depressed the pedal of the saw, causing the blade to come forward and strike his left hand.

Plaintiff’s theory of liability under NYS LL § 241(6) provides in relevant part, “All areas in which construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places.”

Plaintiff claimed that Defendants violated 241(6) by failing to have proper guards covering the saw blade. Both parties stipulated that there was in fact no covering or “guard” on the sawblade at the time of the accident. This effectively forced contractors to work with inherently unsafe tools during the course of their construction, creating the same dangerous workplace conditions that the legislature designed this law to prevent. As such, there was no question of fact regarding violation of the statute.

Defendants countered with a theory of contributory negligence, arguing that plaintiff was responsible for the accident and its resultant injuries, rather than the site owner. Defendants suggest that the owners’ liability is cut off by plaintiff’s own carelessness in not observing safety procedures that could potentially have prevented the accidental activation of the saw blade in the first place.

These issues were not ultimately ruled on. As indicated by the case settling just prior to summations, however, the plaintiff’s theory of liability rooted in 241(6) was much stronger and in all likelihood would have resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict.

As a result of the defendant’s negligence, plaintiff underwent a complete amputation of his left ring and middle fingers. Though plaintiff’s amputation was the most jarring injury that he suffered, he also sustained open fractures of the third and fourth digits with amputation of the proximal aspect of the third distal phalanx and the distal aspect of the fourth distal phalanx. Plaintiff suffered near complete avulsion of the third digit at the mid portion of the third middle phalanx with multiple deep lacerations with skin and tissue missing.

Plaintiff late underwent incision and drainage, debridement of the left ring finger stump, removal of a foreign body, and injection of an anesthetic into the digital nerve. There was an excise debridement wound, drainage of a finger abscess, and an infection in the amputate stump. Plaintiff developed a sebaceous cyst, required physical therapy, experiences daily pain and is hypersensitive to temperature.

This case was settled during trial, just prior to summations, in the amount of $1,400,000.

This matter was handled by Partners S. Joseph Donahue, Esq. and Stephen J. Murphy, Esq.

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