$3,075,000 Settlement for a Boiler Mechanic Who Suffered Lower Back, Neck and Shoulder Injuries After Falling From a Ladder While Making Repairs
DATE OF SETTLEMENT
January 3, 2018
COURT AND COUNTY
Supreme Court, Bronx County
AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF
Plaintiff was 36 years old on the date of the accident and employed as a boiler mechanic by Fred M. Schildwachter & Sons.
FACTS AND ALLEGATIONS
This matter stems from an accident that occurred on February 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm at 2511 East Tremont Avenue, Bronx, New York. Plaintiff, a boiler repairman, was called to the subject property by the Defendant owners to repair a non-functioning hot water heater. The only access Plaintiff was provided with to work on the hot water heater, which was located in the basement, was through a sidewalk hatch in front of the building. The sidewalk hatch was kept locked by the Defendant tenant because it lead into their leased area of the basement. Defendant tenant used their leased space on the first and second floors as an unmanned communications hub.
The sidewalk hatch, which was about 10 feet above the basement floor, only had a six foot wooden ladder leaning against the wall as a means of getting in and out. The ladder was not secured in any manner. The ladder falls about 4-5 feet short of the hatch and to get down one must dangle from the hatch until their feet can access the top of the ladder. To get out one must go to the top of the unsecured ladder and hoist themselves out of the hatch. On the date of the subject accident, while Plaintiff was attempting to get out of the basement through the sidewalk hatch, he was caused to slip and fall from the ladder while trying to hoist himself out precipitating him to fall the 10 feet to the ground below.
Defendants argued That Plaintiff never should have gained access to the premises from the sidewalk hatch but rather should have been advised that there was access to the basement from a garage door that lead to a stairway in the rear.
Plaintiff alleged Defendants were negligent and violated the NY State Labor Law section 240(1). Labor Law section 240(1) imposes absolute liability on owners and contractors, or their agents, when their failure to protect workers from the risks associated with working at an elevation proximately causes injury to a worker. In this matter it was claimed that the ladder Plaintiff was using was inadequately secured and was not a proper means of access to his work area causing Plaintiff to fall and sustain significant injuries in violation of section 240(1).
Plaintiff had immediate complaints of pain to his neck, shoulder and lower back after falling from the ladder to the ground below. Plaintiff began a course of conservative treatment which included physical therapy and spinal injections all of which failed to provide relief. Plaintiff was referred for diagnostic tests and to see spinal and orthopedic specialists to address his continuing and worsening complaints.
The diagnostic tests illustrated that Plaintiff sustained lumbar herniations at the L4-L5 and L5-S1 segments requiring a fusion surgery at those levels. Plaintiff also sustained a cervical herniation at the C4-C5 segment requiring a fusion surgery at that level. Additionally, plaintiff alleged to have sustained tears to the right shoulder requiring an arthroscopic procedure as well as bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome requiring release surgeries. Plaintiff was unable to return to work as a boiler mechanic after the accident and will never work in that field again. Additionally, as a result of these significant injuries plaintiff has been unable to engage in his activities of daily living including taking care of his children, upkeep of his home, and participating in social and recreational activities.
The Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s spinal injuries were degenerative in nature and not causally related to the subject accident and that all diagnostic studies failed to illustrate any traumatically induced injury. The defendant’s expert orthopedic surgeon opined that Plaintiff underwent uncomplicated cervical and lumbar surgeries which were minor surgeries and present no contraindication to Plaintiff returning back to full gainful employment. Further, defendant’s argued that no further treatment was necessary and plaintiff can engage in all activities of daily living without any restrictions.
Plaintiff made claims for loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses, as well as past and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
The parties negotiated a $3,075,000 pretrial settlement.
The case was handled by Stephen J. Murphy and Michael J. Hurwitz.