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$2,100,000 Settlement for Laborer With Spinal Injuries After Trench Collapse

Court and County
Supreme Court, Queens County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
Our client was 58 years old and employed as a laborer on the date of the accident.

Description of Case
This matter stems from a construction accident that occurred on a fall morning in Queens, New York. Plaintiff’s employer was retained by the city to install water mains. Plaintiff, a laborer, was in a trench within the roadway removing a cap from a pipe when the trench walls collapsed, trapping Plaintiff up to his waist in dirt and concrete. As stated in the New York Industrial Code Section 23-4.2, the walls of any trench five feet or deeper must be properly shored and braced. Plaintiff made claims under this code, as well as New York Labor Law section 241(6), that the defendants failed to provide the required shoring and bracing of the walls of the trench, which had been at least five feet deep, to protect the workers within. Further, Plaintiff claimed that because of the type of soil in the area where they were working and the fact that an excavator was being used to break up the street in close proximity to the subject trench, bracing and shoring of the trench walls was required regardless of the trench depth, and Defendants failed to do so.

Defendants argued that the trench was less than five feet in depth and did not require any bracing or shoring of the trench walls.

Injuries and Damages
Plaintiff alleged to have sustained traumatic injuries to his feet bilaterally and his lumbar spine. Regarding the left foot, Plaintiff sustained comminuted and displaced fractures of the second and third metatarsal heads/necks. Additionally, there was a smaller fracture at the plantar aspect of the fourth metatarsal head/neck and a fracture at the proximal-most aspect of the fifth metatarsal shaft.

Only days after the accident, Plaintiff underwent surgery: a left foot open reduction and internal fixation of the left fifth metatarsal as well as closed treatment of the third and fourth metatarsals. Due to continued complaints of pain and difficulty walking, Plaintiff underwent an MRI of the left ankle a year later, which illustrated chronic tearing and scarring of the anterior talofibular ligament. Another year later, Plaintiff underwent a second surgery to the left ankle, consisting of a left ankle arthroscopic debridement and chondroplasty of the talus and left fifth toe resection. Plaintiff continued to struggle with constant pain and problems walking, which resulted in a third surgery, consisting of a triple arthrodesis of the left foot and metal removal.

Regarding the right foot, an X-ray in the ER illustrated a fracture of the proximal third of the shaft of the fibula resulting in a closed reduction. This injury was complicated by the development of a deep vein thrombosis. Due to continued pain and restrictions in range of motion, Plaintiff underwent an MRI study which illustrated a chronic tear of the anterior talofibular ligament.

Plaintiff also suffered a traumatic herniation of the lumbar spine at the L3-4 segment as seen on MRI studies. Plaintiff underwent an EMG of the lower extremities which revealed evidence of radiculopathy. Plaintiff underwent lumbar spine injections to no avail and was recommended for spinal surgery, which he did not undergo.

The defendants argued that Plaintiff’s left and right foot fractures were minor and healed with no residual. Defendants also argued that Plaintiff’s spinal injury was degenerative in nature and not related to the trench collapse, and that diagnostic studies failed to illustrate any traumatically induced disc pathology. Defendants argued Plaintiff could return to gainful employment. Further, Defendants argued that no further treatment was necessary and Plaintiff could engage in daily living without restrictions.

Plaintiff alleged approximately $275,000 in past medical bills. If this case had gone to trial, Plaintiff would have presented evidence of future medical costs for necessary continued treatment including visits with an orthopedic surgeon, a spinal surgeon, visits with musculoskeletal and pain specialists, physical therapy, pain medications, diagnostic studies, and future surgery.

This matter settled before trial for $2,100,000.

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

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