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$12,000,000 Settlement for Local 147 Tunnel Worker Injured in Fall During Subway Extension Project

In a Manhattan case, a union tunnel worker fell approximately 40 feet during a construction project to extend the number 7 subway line. He suffered serious injuries, which required multiple surgeries and became permanently disabled from work. Partners Daniel O’Toole and David Scher represented him and settled the case for $12 million.

Court and County

Supreme Court, New York County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff

Plaintiff was a 45-year-old Local 147 tunnel worker, known in the industry as “Sandhogs”.

Description of Case

Plaintiff was injured on the Number 7 line Subway extension project, when he fell approximately 40 feet into a ventilation shaft on a Manhattan construction site. He was working on a site as a Local 147 Union tunnel worker “Sandhog”, and his job title was “signal man”. On the day of the accident, Plaintiff was involved in rigging a personnel lifting cage (“man basket”) to a large crane on the site. A co-worker was inside the cage, and was supposed to be lowered down to the bottom of the shaft. When the crane began to lower the cage toward the opening of the shaft, however, the cage began to sway. Plaintiff reacted by going over a protective railing adjacent to the shaft, out onto the shaft covers that were in place and grabbing onto the cage in an effort to stabilize it. In doing so, the momentum of the swaying cage carried Plaintiff over an open portion of the shaft, causing him to fall down into it. Plaintiff had no memory of the accident, but it was witnessed by several other workers on the site.

The defense argued that Plaintiff had been responsible for the man basket swaying because of the improper rigging he had employed. The defense further argued that Plaintiff had violated safety instructions by going out onto the shaft, over the protective railing, without wearing a safety harness and without being tied off to any anchorage point. There were disputes between the parties as to who was responsible for the rigging, whether safety devices were immediately available to Plaintiff and whether he had been given sufficiently specific instructions about how and where to tie off.

Our firm filed a motion with the Court, seeking summary judgment against Defendants pursuant to New York Labor Law Section 240(1). The defense intended to oppose, and to cross-move to dismiss Plaintiff’s case. The case settled, however, prior to the full submission of these motion papers.


Plaintiff suffered severe orthopedic and neurologic injuries, including fractures to both arms and legs and his pelvis. He was also rendered totally blind in one eye due to an optic nerve injury. In addition, numerous internal organs were damaged, including his lungs, kidneys and bladder. He required several surgeries, including a left total femur replacement, and was hospitalized multiple times – both for surgical procedures and recurring infections. At the time of settlement, Plaintiff was able to walk short distances with the use of a cane and had certain limitations with the use of his left elbow and right hand. He was alleged to be totally and permanently disabled from employment by his injuries.


The parties attended a private mediation prior to trial, and before dispositive motions were fully submitted. During the mediation, the case settled for $12,000,000.


This matter was handled by firm Partners David L. Scher and Daniel P. O’Toole.

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