$2,000,000 Recovered by Union Carpenter after Work-Related Fall
Court and County
Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
Plaintiff was a 51-year-old Local 7 Union Carpenter.
Description of Case
Plaintiff was a foreman for his company. Every morning he would arrive at the site and enter a trailer to review plans and determine the scope of the work for the day. In order to access this trailer, one would climb a portable staircase positioned under it. It is alleged that the staircase was old, worn, bent, and most importantly, not tied or fastened to the trailer in any sufficient way, thus causing it to move throughout the day as people walked up and down it. This was in spite of the fact that Plaintiff and others had asked contractors numerous times to fasten the staircase to the trailer.
On the day of the accident, Plaintiff arrived at work at 6:15am to prepare for the day. It was still dark out, and at the time there were other foremen in the trailer preparing for the day. At approximately 6:45am, Plaintiff went to leave the trailer to go relay instructions to his men. He was the last foreman to leave, however, and when he opened the door and took a step he stepped on air and fell approximately 5 feet from the trailer to the pavement, losing consciousness and suffering injuries to his wrist, knee, shoulder and lower back. The stairs had moved backwards, with only about a quarter of the platform in front of the doorway. It was also determined that the stairs were too small for the trailer door.
We argued that the stairs constituted an elevation device and thus were pursuable under New York Labor Law 240(1). It was noted that structures which constitute a staircase do indeed fall under the protections of the Scaffold Law. It was also noted that a worker need not actually be working from a staircase or passageway at the time of his fall to be protected by the statute. In either case, we argued, Plaintiff was descending the stairs to prepare to perform duties essential to his job and was thus injured due to inadequate elevation protection. The defense argued that a stairway does not constitute a safety device and thus is not covered under New York Labor Law 240(1). They also argued that because Plaintiff was aware that the stairs had a tendency to move that this in fact constitutes an “open and obvious” defect in which case the defense is not liable.
Plaintiff lost consciousness upon fall and was admitted to the ER with a brain hemorrhage. He was also found to have suffered injuries to his wrist, knee, shoulder and lower back. He later had to have surgery on his wrist (ulna shortening and ligament repair), knee (oblique tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus) and shoulder (arthroscopy to repair tears).
Later, an MRI revealed disc herniation at C3/4, C6/7 and C7/T1 as well as bulging discs at L1/2 and L4/5, requiring multiple injections into the lumbar spinal region.
He was also diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome causing cognitive and behavioral dysfunction. These injuries left him unable to continue to work the job he loved, robbing him of future wages, and diminishing his enjoyment of life. He was also diagnosed with mild depression and told he would be permanently disabled due to dizziness, lack of concentration and headaches.
The case settled for $2,000,000 right before jury selection.
This matter was handled by Daniel P. O’Toole, Scott Occhiogrosso and Stephen J. Murphy.