$1.6 Million Settlement for Carpenter Injured in Fall After His Scaffold Tipped Over
Court and County
Supreme Court, Queens County
Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
Plaintiff was a 58-year-old non-union carpenter at the time of the accident.
Plaintiff was working for a subcontractor during a project in downtown Manhattan to construct the 9/11 Tribute Center. He was patching and plastering holes in the ceiling of the second floor. To do this, he was standing on the platform of a six-foot high rolling Baker scaffold and being pushed around the floor from location to location by an employee of another contractor. While he was working on the scaffold, it rolled and one of its wheels got caught in a small hole in the floor. This caused the scaffold to tip over and fall, and Plaintiff to fall to the floor.
We sued the site owner and general contractor, claiming violation of N.Y. Labor Law Section 240(1) for failing to provide a safe work site for Plaintiff. We also alleged the general contractor was negligent for failing to properly cover or block off the hole into which Plaintiff’s scaffold rolled, which was a probe hole that had been created in connection with the project. Rather than properly cover the hole, a bucket was merely placed over it. The bucket was pushed out of the way by Plaintiff’s rolling scaffold and thus proved totally ineffective.
The defense claimed that Plaintiff unsafely “self-propelled” his scaffold, meaning that he used his body to move the scaffold while he was on its platform, something he had allegedly been instructed not to do. The defense argued Plaintiff was the cause of his own accident. We countered that, even if Plaintiff did self-propel the scaffold, the accident would not have occurred if the probe hole had been properly covered and/or if the scaffold’s wheels had been properly locked.
The case settled just prior to our filing a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.
Injuries and Damages
Plaintiff had immediate severe pain to his right shoulder, which was dislocated. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where his shoulder was manually reduced. He was also diagnosed with rib fractures. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff began a course of treatment for pain to his right shoulder and neck. He underwent a shoulder surgery consisting of repair of his right rotator cuff, supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon, excision of torn labrum, as well as synovectomy and subacromial decompression. Following that operation, he underwent physical therapy, a manipulation under anesthesia, and cortisone injections to his right shoulder.
Regarding his neck injury, MRI study showed a posterior herniation at C4/5 impinging the cord, and EMG testing revealed right C5 radiculopathy. These results were consistent with Plaintiff’s ongoing complaints of radiating neck pain. After physical therapy failed to help, Plaintiff underwent a surgery – anterior cervical discectomy with fusion at the C4/5 level, during which the herniation and deformation of the spinal cord were diagnosed intra-operatively.
Plaintiff made a fairly good recovery after his surgeries, but he was left with pain and limitations that prevented him from returning to work as a carpenter. We claimed damages for his pain and suffering, past and future lost earnings, and past and future medical expenses.
The defense retained multiple medical experts who disputed aspects of our claim. Among other things, the defense’s expert spine surgeon opined that Plaintiff’s cervical spine damage was not caused by the subject accident, and the defense’s orthopedist contended that Plaintiff’s right shoulder rotator cuff tears existed before the accident and were unrelated. Another expert doctor for the defense claimed that Plaintiff was not disabled and could return to work. Our experts would have rebutted each of those claims, had the case proceeded to trial.
The case settled following multiple mediations for $1,600,000. At the time of settlement, the case was still in its discovery phase.
This case was handled by firm Partners Stephen J. Murphy and David L. Scher.