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$2,500,000 Settlement for Local 78 Union Worker with Spinal and Knee Injuries After a Fall from Scaffolding

Our client fell from a scaffolding after the duct he was removing fell onto him. The scaffolding was missing a properly placed safety railing. He sustained injuries requiring surgical intervention to his lumbar spine and right knee. As a result of the fall, plaintiff never returned to work. Represented by partner Daniel O’Toole with associates Pawel Wierzbicki and Joshua Stern, he received a $2,500,000 settlement.

Age and Occupation of the Plaintiff
At the time of the accident, our client was a 66-year-old union worker who had been part of Laborers Local 78 for over a decade.

Court and County
Supreme, Kings

Description of Case
The case arose out of an accident which occurred at a construction site wherein plaintiff was performing demolition of overhead duct. Plaintiff testified that while preparing to cut a portion of the duct, it fell, causing him to fall off of scaffolding from approximately five feet high. Plaintiff alleged Labor Law §240(1) violations on two grounds: (1) failure to provide proper safety devices to prevent the duct from falling and (2) failure to provide scaffolding with adequately placed safety railing to prevent the plaintiff from falling.

Defendants claimed that at the time of this incident plaintiff failed to use an available scissor lift to prevent the duct from falling thus he was the sole proximate cause of the accident. Defendants further claimed the scaffolding provided was compliant with all applicable safety regulations. Defendant’s expert provided an affidavit that the contractor-defendant provided proper safety devices and the accident was entirely the fault of the plaintiff for failing to use an available scissor lift and improperly cutting the duct.

Shortly after the accident, plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was treated and released after being diagnosed with a rib fracture. The plaintiff initially underwent conservative treatment for his cervical spine, lumbar spine, and right knee. MRI’s of his cervical and lumbar spine revealed various bulges and herniations. The Plaintiff had physical therapy for his injured body parts which failed to relieve his symptoms.

As a result of the failed conservative treatment, plaintiff came under the care of spine and knee specialists. His spine surgeon conducted a one-level lumbar fusion surgery at L5-S1. The surgery included the implantation of hardware in his spine. His knee surgeon conducted surgery involving arthroscopic synovectomy, chondroplasty of patella and medial and lateral femoral condyles, meniscectomy, and resection of medial plica.

Plaintiff had returned to work after a nine-year absence due to a prior accident involving injuries to the spine. He returned to work for approximately nine months before the accident representing the crux of this lawsuit occurred. As a result of this incident and the injuries it caused, his doctors opined that the accident rendered him disabled from employment. We alleged economic damages for the plaintiff’s lost income through his expected retirement age and loss in social security retirement income.

We also alleged that the plaintiff would be required to undergo lifelong medical treatment related to the injuries sustained in the accident. The plaintiff was examined by a medical specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. This specialist opined that the plaintiff would require future treatment in the form of visits with a spine surgeon, knee specialist, musculoskeletal and pain specialist, physical therapy, MRIs, EMGs and, x-rays. He also opined that the plaintiff would need medication to control pain and may require future spine surgery and a future knee replacement. The physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists also provided the current costs of the anticipated treatment. The inflation rates for these costs of medical care were applied by our expert economist. The total cost of future healthcare was claimed as part of the plaintiff’s future economic damages. In the event the case had gone to trial, the plaintiff also would have alleged economic loss for past medical expenses.

Defendants disputed both the injuries and damages claims with their own orthopedist, radiologist, life care plan, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and biomechanical engineer. The defense claimed the injuries other than the fractured rib were from the prior accident, that plaintiff was capable of substitute employment, and that the injuries plaintiff claimed he sustained could not been caused by the way he testified to have fallen.

Settlement Amount
The parties resolved this case at private mediation for $2,500,000. The case was handled by partner Daniel O’Toole with associates Pawel Wierzbicki and Joshua Stern.

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