There are countless dangers waiting at every construction worksite, and the smallest mistake can lead to life-altering injuries. This is what happened to a 36-year-old construction worker who sustained severe bodily injuries at work. While he was on a ladder nailing plywood sheathing to the frame of the house, the ladder slipped, and the worker fell over 20 feet to the ground below. The worker suffered permanent paraplegia, a neurogenic bladder and bowel, an L1 spinal fracture which required an open reduction internal fixation at T12-L1 and posterior spinal fusion at T10-L3, as well as a right pneumothorax, five fractured ribs, a scalp laceration and hematoma. The worker’s injuries required extensive treatment and physical therapy. He was unable to return to work and filed a Workers’ Compensation claim with his employer’s insurance.
Workers' compensation is an insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Employers pay for this insurance and cannot require the employee to contribute to the cost of compensation. Weekly cash benefits (lost wages) and medical care are paid for by the employer's insurance carrier, as directed by the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Board is a state agency that processes the claims. In a workers' compensation case, no one party is determined to be at fault. The amount that a claimant receives is not decreased by his/her carelessness, nor increased by an employer's fault. However, a worker loses his/her right to workers' compensation if the injury results solely from his or her intoxication from drugs or alcohol, or from the intent to injure him/herself or someone else.
Here, the injured worker also filed a lawsuit against the owner of the building and general contractor, asserting violations of Labor Law § 240(1). Generally, Labor Law § 240(1) protects construction workers from gravity-related risks such as falling from a height or being struck by a falling object. Liability under this section is statutory and construction site owners and general contractors can be held strictly liable for violations of Labor Law § 240(1). The plaintiff's comparative fault cannot be considered, which makes this statute a very plaintiff-friendly.
Here, the plaintiff contended that defendants failed to furnish him with a stable, secure ladder and other proper safety devices. The defendants denied liability and contended that the plaintiff, nor anyone else at the jobsite, ever complained about the ladder prior to his fall and as such the defendants had no notice of any defective condition. The defendants claimed the plaintiff refused to use available safety devices. They asserted that the plaintiff noticed the ladder was wobbling but continued to use the ladder and did not request additional protections. A witness produced by the general contractor testified that the plaintiff leaned to the side of the ladder without holding onto the ladder with either hand.
The plaintiff testified that he did not know why the ladder rotated. OSHA investigated the site of this accident. Their report noted that the bottom three rungs of the ladder were bent. The court granted the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on his Labor Law § 240(1) claim, finding the property owner and general contractor liable for plaintiff’s accident and injuries. The amount of damages had yet to be established.
At the mediation, the plaintiff rejected the low settlement offer extended by defendants’ insurance companies, which meant that the case had to go to trial.
It was worth the risk. After long deliberations, the jury awarded plaintiff almost $17,000,000.00 in damages, including $5,000,000 for pain and suffering, approximately $630,000.00 for lost wages and over $11,300,000.00 for future medical expenses.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to The Platta law Firm for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org, or personally by visiting our law firm in lower Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions through the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.