You may often wonder why construction workers in New York are afforded such great legal protection from accidents?
Well, you need to understand the grave risks they face each day at work. Once you imagine dangers of their daily work, and the injuries they suffer from accidents, then it is easily understood.
Today’s case is the perfect example to show what can go wrong in a relatively easy project…that lead to severe spinal injuries of the construction worker.
A worker was injured while applying taping compound to the ceiling of an apartment undergoing renovation at a building in Brooklyn. In order to perform the assigned task, the worker had to climb up the scaffold and work from a ladder placed on the platform of the scaffold.
Before he got onto the scaffold, he inspected it and made sure the scaffold was locked. At the time of the accident, the worker was standing on the 4th step of the ladder. He had a spatula, a container, and a plate with him.
When he went up the ladder, his co-worker held the plate with the compound on it. The worker used his spatula to take the compound from the plate to do his work. At the time of the accident, the worker held the ladder with his left hand and grabbed the compound from the plate being held by his co-worker with his right hand.
At that time, he was working both on the ceiling and on the wall adjacent to the ceiling fan. To reach the plate, the worker had to extend his entire right arm outward towards the co-worker, who was on his right. As the laborer was performing his work, the scaffold tipped to the left and the platform toppled over, which caused the worker and the ladder fell to the ground.
As a result of the accident, he sustained multiple injuries, including injuries to his neck, lower back and left knee. The injured was immediately taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was released the same day. However, the pain in his lower back and left knee did not subside. He was unable to return to work. He filed a Workers’ Compensation claim with his employer’s insurance, which paid out partial lost wages and covered necessary medical treatment. Plaintiff’s injuries required extensive treatment and physical therapy. Eventually, he had to undergo a lumbar fusion and left knee arthroscopy.
The injured worker 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 fault cannot be considered, which makes this statute a very plaintiff-friendly.
Here, the plaintiff contended the scaffold was an inadequate safety device and the defendants failed to provide him with any other safety device to prevent him from falling. The plaintiff sought damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering. Defendants disputed the plaintiff's version of events, including where he was standing at the time of the incident.
The court granted the plaintiff's motion to win liability in this case (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 offers extended by defendants’ insurance companies, which meant that the case had to go to trial.
It was worth the risk. After the trial, the jury awarded plaintiff almost $6,500,000.00 in damages, including $1,500,000.00 for past pain and suffering, $3,525,000.00 for future pain and suffering, and over $1,460,000.00 for future medical expenses.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident, please reach out to us for a free legal consultation by calling us 24/7 at 212– 514–5100, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 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.