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$2.85 Million Settlement for Local 79 Union Laborer Who Fell at a Manhattan Construction Site

Court and County

Supreme Court, New York County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff

Plaintiff was a 38-year-old Local 79 union laborer at the time of the accident.


The accident occurred during a renovation project at a City-owned apartment complex in Harlem.  Our client was a laborer working for the general contractor.  The work involved, among other things, rehabilitation of the buildings’ exterior facade and roof.

A mobile work platform system known as a ‘mast climber’ was installed at the exterior of the building.  It was comprised of a power-operated working platform that moved up and down along two towers or ‘masts’.  At the time of the accident, our client was asked to go to the platform of the climber.  In order to reach the tower, which, depending on varying accounts, was somewhere between 12 and 20 feet above the ground at that time, he climbed up the rungs of one of the mast climber’s towers.

While climbing the tower, and looking up for the hatch door entrance to the platform above him, Plaintiff lost his balance and fell to the ground.  The distance of his fall was also in dispute, and was somewhere between 4 feet and 10 feet.

We claimed that the Defendant – the owner of the building – violated New York Labor Law Section 240(1) by failing to provide a safe way for Plaintiff to ascend to the work platform.  We showed that the mast climber was equipped with a pull-down ladder, but that ladder was inaccessible to Plaintiff because a sidewalk shed had been erected under the platform of the mast climber, which prevented its platform from being lowered enough for the pull-down ladder to reach the ground.  As a result, we claimed, Plaintiff was forced to climb the rungs of the tower instead, which was less safe.  In addition, we alleged that Plaintiff should have been afforded a safety vest with a retractable life line, such that he would have been safely tied off as he climbed the tower.

We filed a motion on Plaintiff’s behalf, seeking summary judgment on the issue of liability; in other words, asking for a Court ruling that the Defendant was 100% responsible for the accident by virtue of its violating the Labor Law.

The defense vigorously disputed liability.  They claimed that the tower was a perfectly appropriate and normal way to climb to the platform; which was equipped with rungs just like a ladder and was stable and without any defect.  The defense claimed this accident occurred simply because Plaintiff slipped or lost his balance, an accident for which they could not be blamed and for which the Labor Law should not apply.  At the time of settlement, the defense had filed a motion seeking to dismiss our client’s case.

The case settled while those motions were still pending.


Plaintiff fell onto concrete and had immediate pain to his right arm and back.  He was taken to the ER by ambulance where X-rays revealed a right distal radius comminuted fracture.  A closed reduction was perform and his arm was casted.  No surgery was required for this arm fracture.

Plaintiff began treating for his ongoing low back pain.  An MRI revealed an annular tear at the L4/5 level and a compression fracture at T12.  He also had neck pain and cervical spine MRI showed herniated discs at C4/5 and C7/T1, as well as right shoulder pain with an MRI revealing a labral tear.

After multiple lumbar epidural steroid injections and trigger point injections, Plaintiff’s radiating low back pain continued.  Following multiple consultations with a spine surgeon, Plaintiff underwent back surgery about 2 years after his accident.  The surgery involved a laminectomy, discectomy and fusion at the L4/5 level.  Post-surgery, Plaintiff continued to treat with physical therapy and injections to his lower back.  He did not return to work after the accident.

We made claims for past and future lost earnings, medical expenses and pain and suffering.  The defense also disputed much of Plaintiff’s damages claims. They pointed to a prior motor vehicle accident and prior complaints of lower back pain, for which Plaintiff had already been seeing a chiropractor before the subject fall.  The defense medical experts concluded that

Plaintiff suffered only a strain to his lower back, did not require surgery and was capable of resuming work and normal activities of daily living.

The expert and medical providers we planned to call at trial (had the case proceeded that far) would have offered contrary opinions to those defense experts.  But the case settled prior to any scheduled trial date.


This case settled, following a private mediation, for $2.85 Million.

Handling Attorneys

This case was handled by firm Partners Stephen J. Murphy and David L. Scher.

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