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$6,000,000 Settlement for Union Operating Engineer Who Fell Through Opening In Crane During Manhattan Construction Project

Our client, a 49-year-old union operating engineer, was operating a crane on a Manhattan construction site. In order to exit the crane, he had to climb down a series of ladders, with a platform on each level. As he was descending to one of the platforms to leave the crane, he expected to step onto the solid floor, but instead fell through a hatch door that had been left open by a worker who had previously climbed down. He fell 13 feet, seriously injuring his spine and neck, and alleged that he was totally disabled from future employment as a result of this accident. Represented by Partners Stephen Murphy and David Scher, he received a $6,000,000 settlement.  

Plaintiff Age and Occupation

At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was a 49-year-old union operating engineer.

Description of Case

Plaintiff was operating a large crane on a Manhattan construction site. To ascend and descend from the crane’s cab, where the controls are located, Plaintiff had to climb up and down a series of ladders, with a platform landing on each level. Plaintiff was climbing down the ladders and stepped down onto the platform level. However, unknown to him at the time, a worker who had previously descended the ladder had failed to close a hatch door on the platform. As such, there was an opening where Plaintiff expected there to be a closed hatch, and he fell down to the platform below – a distance of about 13 feet.

We brought suit against the site owner and general contractor, claiming violation of New York Labor Law Section 240(1), the “Scaffold Law”, which generally protects workers who are not afforded proper fall protection.  The defense argued that the case fell outside the protections of the Statute, because there was nothing defective about the ladder or the hatch through which he fell. The case settled prior to motion practice.

Injuries and Damages

Plaintiff suffered numerous fractures, including transverse process fractures to his lumbar spine at the L2 through L5 levels, comminuted fracture of the right scapula, and three right-sided rib fractures. He also developed radiating neck pain. After a series of MRIs revealed damage to his cervical and lumbar spine, Plaintiff underwent an unsuccessful course of physical therapy and injections. He ultimately underwent a neck surgery consisting of anterior cervical discectomy with fusion at the C5/C6 level. Plaintiff also underwent a left hip arthroscopic surgery, during which a labral tear was diagnosed, and a lumbar spine surgery consisting of discectomy with fusion at L3 through L5.

We claimed that Plaintiff was totally and permanently disabled from employment as a result of his injuries, and utilized an expert economist to calculate his future loss of earnings and union benefits. The defense expert physicians, oppositely, concluded that our client had largely recovered from his injuries and was able to return to his prior employment.


The case settled prior to trial, during a private mediation, for $6,000,000.

Handling Attorneys

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

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