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Undocumented Construction Worker Recovers $1,350,000 in Finger Amputation Suit

Supreme New York

Plaintiff was a 36 year-old laborer.

Plaintiff was working on a large project that involved the construction of a high rise apartment building in downtown Manhattan. Plaintiff’s company, Groundwater Specialists, Inc., was working on the foundation of the building. Plaintiff, along with his co-workers, were lowering 20 foot sections of rebar into casings that extended 100 feet down into the ground. The rebar sections were fastened to the bucket of an excavator with straps, and then lowered into the holes. Plaintiff was standing on the ground next to one of the casings, and was responsible for inserting and removing a flat concrete object known as a fishplate from the rebar as the assembly proceeded. At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was attempting to remove the fishplate from underneath the rebar when the rebar suddenly lowered a short distance, causing Plaintiff’s right hand to become trapped between the fishplate and the casing.

The reason for the rebar suddenly lowering was hotly contested. The defense claimed that Plaintiff was completely at fault for the incident, pointing to testimony by Plaintiff’s co-worker, who stated that Plaintiff himself improperly secured a strap to the rebar, which caused the rebar to slip and lower onto his hand. Plaintiff denied placing the strap improperly, but was unable to offer any other precise explanation for why the rebar lowered as it did. The defense also argued that Plaintiff could have avoided being hurt if he had simply placed his hands into the fishplate’s handle, rather than gripping it on its sides as he chose to do. Plaintiff sued the site owner, general contractor and construction manager, alleging a violation of New York Labor Law Section 240(1).

Plaintiff suffered traumatic amputations of three (3) fingers on his right hand; the middle, ring and pinky fingers. At the hospital, surgeons were able to re-attach the middle and ring fingers, but were forced to amputate approximately one-half of Plaintiff’s pinky finger. Plaintiff continues to suffer discomfort and deficits of use with respect to those fingers on his right hand, including loss of motion, grip strength and sensitivity.

Plaintiff, an undocumented laborer from Mexico, did pursue a lost earnings claim, arguing that his right hand injuries prevented him from ever being able to work in the construction field again. The Defense would have argued that Plaintiff’s undocumented status in the United States should have precluded, or at least drastically reduced, his ability to recover any lost earnings in the lawsuit. The defense would have also argued that despite Plaintiff’s injuries, he was still capable of various types of employment both in and outside of the construction field.


This case was handled by Stephen J. Murphy, Esq. and David L. Scher, Esq. of Block O’Toole & Murphy.

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