Labor Law Construction Accident

Fall from scaffold caused back, knee injuries, plaintiff alleged

Settlement: $1,375,000
Case: Plaintiff v One State Street, LLC
Court: Queens Supreme
Judge: Marguerite A. Grays
Date: 8/22/2007

Plaintiff Attorney(s) Adam M. Orlow
The Orlow Firm Flushing, NY

Defense Attorney(s) Steven Steigerwalk,
Law Office of John Humphries, Melville, NY (One State Street LLC)
None reported (Topline Contracting Inc.)

FACTS AND ALLEGATIONS On June 17, 2003, plaintiff, 39, a remover of asbestos, worked in the basement of a building that was located at 1 State Street, in Manhattan. Plaintiff’s work required access to an area of the basement’s ceiling. Thus, he was standing on a scaffold. During the course of that work, a co-worker moved the scaffold. Plaintiff fell about six feet, and he landed on the ground. He claimed that he sustained injuries of his back and one knee.

Plaintiff sued the building’s owner, One State Street LLC. He alleged that One State Street violated the labor law.

One State Street commenced a third-party suit against Plaintiff’s employer, Topline Contracting Inc. One State Street sought indemnification. However, the third-party suit was dismissed via summary judgment.

Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that the incident stemmed from an elevation-related hazard, as defined by Labor Law Section 240(1), and that Plaintiff was not provided the proper, safe equipment that is a requirement of the statute.

Defense counsel contended that Plaintiff’s actions were the sole proximate cause of his fall.

Plaintiff’s counsel moved for pretrial summary judgment of liability, and the motion was granted. The parties proceeded to mediation that addressed damages.

INJURIES/DAMAGES arthroscopy; discectomy; facetectomy; fusion, lumbar; herniated sic at L4-5; herniated sic at L5-S1; laminotomy; lumbar laminectomy; torn meniscus

Plaintiff claimed that he sustained a tear of his right knee’s meniscus and herniations of his L4-5 and L5-S1 intervertebral discs. His right knee’s injury was addressed via arthroscopic surgery that was performed June 28, 2006. He also underwent a multi-segmented surgery that addressed his back’s injuries. The surgery included a decompressive laminotomy, which is an excision of the bony plate that covers a vertebra, and a facetectomy, which is the removal of a vertebra’s fact joint. Those procedures addressed his spine’s L4, L5 and S1 levels. The surgery also included an L5 laminectomy, which is the removal of the L5 vertebra’s posterior arch; a discectomy, which is the surgical removal of a disc; and fusion of his spine’s L4 and L5 levels.

Plaintiff performed about two weeks of work that completed the job that he was performing when the accident occurred. However, he has not performed any other work. He claimed that he suffers residual disabilities that prevent his resumption of any type of work.

Plaintiff sought recovery of his past and future lost earnings and damages for his past and future pain and suffering.

Defense counsel contended that Plaintiff’s spinal injuries stemmed from significant conditions that preexisted that accident.

The defense’s vocational-rehabilitation expert determined that Plaintiff can perform jobs that would provide income that equaled or exceeded the income that he was earning before the accident occurred.

RESULT The parties agreed to a $1,375,000 settlement, which was established via the guidance of mediator Peter Merani, of United Arbitration Inc.

INSURER(S) Travelers Property Casualty Corp. for One State Street (primary insurer) Zurich North America for One State Street (excess)

PLAINTIFF EXPERT(S) Conrad Berenson, Ph.D., Economics, Woodbury, NY
Richard J. Radna, M.D., Neurosurgery, New York, NY

DEFENSE EXPERT(S) Maurice Carter, M.D., orthopedic surgery, New York, NY
Peter Stickney, M.S., C.R.C., vocational rehabilitation, Manlius, NY

EDITOR’S NOTE This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. One State Street’s counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls. Topline Contracting’s counsel was not asked to contribute.