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$6,793,881 Jury Verdict for Union Laborer Hurt in Water Treatment Plant Accident

Supreme Court, Kings County

Plaintiff was a 35-year-old union “journeyman” laborer.

The accident occurred at the Newton Creek Water Treatment Plant renovation project in Brooklyn, New York. At the time of the accident Plaintiff was a union “journeyman” laborer, employed by the general contractor of the site. The plant’s expansion program was sponsored by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection with work being performed by a joint venture of contractors including Skanska USA Civil Picone, McCullagh JV and Perini Corp, with Skanska bearing the majority of responsibility in a 45/35/20, respectively. As the controlling contractor, Skanska had several of its own contracting companies operate on-site, including Slattery Skanska, Gottlieb Skanska and Underpinning & Foundation Skanska.

The purpose of the wastewater treatment plant’s renovations were to simultaneously increase the volumetric and hydraulic power capacities of the station. Such upgrades will allow the City of New York to more efficiently treat the sheer volume of sewage and wastewater produced both now, and in the foreseeable future.

On the day of the accident, Plaintiff was working on the rooftop of an electrical building. A piece of rebar got stuck in the roof and a co-worker asked Plaintiff for assistance in removing it. As the two were dislodging the stuck metal, Plaintiff fell backwards and was impaled when he fell on the sharp, uncapped end of a vertical rebar that had was projecting out from the top of the roof.

Plaintiff brought a claim against the city under Labor Law Section § 241(6) which imposes liability upon the owner of a construction site for failing to ensure “all areas in which construction, excavation or demolition work is being performed shall be so constructed, shored, equipped, guarded, arranged, operated and conducted as to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the persons employed therein or lawfully frequenting such places.”

In the instant case, the site owner’s (NYC) liability was established as a result of its failure to ensure that there weren’t any sharp objects, tools, hazards, & etc. that could cause, or as in this case, exacerbate the severity of the injury sustained during a construction worksite injury. Plaintiff won motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability and so the only question for the jury was the amount with which to reward plaintiff for pain and suffering experienced.

Plaintiff suffered a horrible penetrating wound that caused severe lacerations to his gastrointestinal tract, requiring emergency surgical repair and the insertion of a colostomy bag. Six weeks later, Plaintiff required an additional surgery to remove the colostomy bag and to restore the bowel tract, following which an infection developed that required an additional four weeks of hospitalization.

Plaintiff sustained injuries to his back, specifically, herniating the L5-S1 disc. After one year of physical therapy failed to repair the herniation, Plaintiff underwent spinal fusion surgery to finally relieve the pain.

After trial, the jury returned a favorable verdict for Plaintiff in the amount of $6,793,881. The trial judge remitted this sum $3,300,000 via reduction of future damages. Upon hearing this case the Court of Appeals affirmed liability and reinstated the $6.79 million verdict.

This matter was tried by Partners Jeffrey A. Block, Esq. and S. Joseph Donahue, Esq.

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