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$1,900,000 Settlement for HVAC Installer After He Suffered Serious Back Injuries as a Result of a Work Site Fall

An HVAC installer was performing construction work on a single-family home. While performing this work, he fell 8 feet from a closed, unsecured ladder that was meant to serve as a means of exiting from the home to the unfinished floor below. As a result of the fall, our client suffered injuries to his lumbar and cervical spine, as well as his left shoulder.

Court and County
Supreme Court, Suffolk County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
Our client was 55 years old and employed as an HVAC installer at the time of the accident.

Description of Case
This matter stems from a construction site accident that occurred in Nassau County. Our client was working on the construction of a single-family home. At the time of the accident, our client had been making his way out of the house; to do so, he needed to use an 8-foot A-frame aluminum ladder that led from inside the home to the unfinished garage floor below, since the stairs leading from the garage floor to the home’s entrance had not yet been constructed. The ladder was in a closed position leaning against a wall. As he was making his way down the ladder, Plaintiff fell. He alleged violations of the NY State Labor Law sections 240(1) and 241(6), saying that he fell because the ladder was inadequately secured and its footings were not firm and level. Plaintiff’s summary judgment motion regarding Labor Law sections 240(1) and 241(6) was still pending when the case settled.

Defendants argued that a wooden ladder had been provided as an exit in and out of the garage; it had been secured to the garage wall with nails, but had been removed prior to the accident and replaced with the aluminum A-frame ladder.

Injuries and Damages
Plaintiff sustained injuries to his lumbar spine, cervical spine, and left shoulder as a result of the accident.

Plaintiff suffered an exacerbation of prior lumbar herniations at the L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1 segments. After conservative treatment failed, including pain medications, physical therapy, and lumbar injections, Plaintiff underwent a decompressive lumbar laminectomy surgery with medial facetectomies, decompression, neurological elements, and nerve roots at the L3, L4, and L5 levels. Additionally, Plaintiff sustained traumatic cervical herniations at the C3-4, C4-5, and C5-6 segments; after conservative treatment failed, he underwent a fusion surgery at those levels. Plaintiff also alleged, as confirmed by MRI, a traumatic tear of the left shoulder labrum which required procedures including a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement of the labrum, as well as a distal clavicle resection.

The defendants argued that Plaintiff’s spinal injuries were preexisting, degenerative in nature, and did not cause the accident. They also argued that all diagnostic studies did not show any traumatically induced injury. Additionally, Defendants argued that no further treatment was necessary and that Plaintiff could engage in all activities of daily living without any restrictions.

Plaintiff alleged approximately $125,000 in past medical bills. If the case had gone to trial, Plaintiff would have presented evidence of future medical costs for necessary continued treatment, including visits with a spinal surgeon, visits with musculoskeletal and pain specialists, physical therapy, pain medications, diagnostic studies, and future surgery.

Settlement
This case settled pre-trial for $1,900,000.

Handling Attorneys
This matter was handled by Partners Stephen J. Murphy and Michael J. Hurwitz.

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