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Construction Accident Victim Receives $2,225,000 for Back and Neck Injuries

Plaintiff was working as a local 608 carpenter foreman at a construction project at 750 Lexington Avenue. The project was the demolition and renovation of the 30th and 31st floors of a high rise commercial building. At the time of the accident Plaintiff was entering the freight elevator on the 30th floor when a steel rated fire door fell and struck Plaintiff in the back causing Plaintiff to fall to the ground.

Prior to the accident, the steel rated fire door was removed from its hinges by an unknown individual and was placed leaning against the wall directly across from the entrance to the freight elevator. The door was placed against the wall vertically, with the bottom of the door resting on wire cables and the top of the door resting against the top portion of the wall. The door was not secured in any manner. It was unknown as to what caused the door to fall.

Plaintiff alleged that the unsecured door, leaning vertically against the wall, constituted a dangerous condition. Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants, International Plaza Associates, L.P. and J.T. Magen Construction Company, Inc., as the owner and general contractor, violated Labor Law Sections 241(6), 200 and 240(1). Plaintiff further alleged that the presence of the door in the passageway was a violation of 12 NYCRR 23-2.1(a)(1), which requires building materials be stored in a safe manner and 12 NYCRR 23- 1.7(e)(2), which requires working areas be kept FREE from scattered tools and materials.

Defendants claimed that the door did not constitute a dangerous condition. Defendants alleged that the presence of the door for a significant period of time prior to the accident, during which time the door remained upright and did not fall, was evidence that the presence of the door was not a dangerous condition.

Defendants further claimed that Labor Law 240(1) was not applicable as the door was located on the same level as Plaintiff and did not constitute a gravity related risk. Defendants argued that 241(6) was not violated as 12 NYCRR 23-2.1(a)(1) was not applicable, as the door was not a “building material”, and that 12 NYCRR 23-1.7(e)(2) was not applicable, as the door was not a “tripping hazard”.

Plaintiff was taken from the scene via ambulance, to Cornell Medical Center, with complaints of pain to the neck, mid back and low back. P was treated and released. Plaintiff began a course of conservative treatment with physical therapy and pain management.

Plaintiff’s condition failed to improve through conservative treatment and, ultimately, Plaintiff underwent a Cervical Fusion at C5-C7 on September 23, 2008, followed by a Lumbar Fusion at L4-S1 on September 22, 2009.

Plaintiff alleged that he was unable to return to gainful employment following the accident and sought past and future loss of earnings.

Plaintiff further alleged that Plaintiff required ongoing medical care and treatment.

Defendants alleged that Plaintiff suffered pre-existing injuries and degenerative conditions to his cervical spine. In 1998 and 2001 Plaintiff suffered work related injuries to his neck, requiring multiple visits to physicians and physical therapy. In 1998 Plaintiff was diagnosed with cervical disc herniations and complained of numbness running down both arms to his hands. Defendants further claimed that Plaintiff suffered pre-existing degenerative conditions to his lumbar spine.

Defendants argued that Plaintiff was not entitled to past or future loss of earnings, citing Plaintiff’s application for social security disability wherein Plaintiff indicated that he became disabled in February 2006, prior to the accident, as a result of significant joint pain.

The case settled for $2,225,000 at a mediation prior to jury selection. The case was handled by Jeffrey Block and S. Joseph Donahue of Block O’Toole & Murphy, L.L.P.

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