Construction Accident Cases
Construction Laborer Struck by Car at Job Site
11 Days before Christmas in 2004, plaintiff, 56, while employed as a laborer doing paving work at a construction site in an office building parking lot in East Hanover, New Jersey, was struck by car driven by the defendant, who worked at the office building. There were no witnesses to the accident. Plaintiff, who landed on the windshield of the car, has no memory of being hit. Defendant claimed that he was driving slowly and dealing with sun glare and that he saw nothing until he heard a thump and the plaintiff was on the windshield of his car.
Plaintiff incurred a blunt force head trauma on account of being struck by the car. He was in a coma for a month and continues to suffer cognitive difficulties, which prevent him from returning to work. This view was supported by plaintiff’s retained neuropsychologist and neurologist.
It was the defendants’ contention that plaintiff had preexisting conditions that made his continued ability to work problematic, even before the accident.
Plaintiff sued the property owner and the general and subcontractor for the project. The suit alleged negligence on the part of the driver and charged that the owner, contractor and subcontractor created an unsafe work site by not restricting traffic in the area. Plaintiff’s wife joined the action with a consortium claim.
The case went to court-mandated arbitration that resulted in award of $3,000,000 with 10% of liability on the plaintiff and 20% on the driver. Defense counsel for the driver appealed that award. The driver did not contend that his negligence did not contribute to the accident and had deposited his policy limits in court two years earlier. The remaining defendants contended that the accident was caused by the negligence of the driver and by the plaintiff’s own negligence, and not by anything that the contractor, subcontractor or owner did or did not do.
The driver, contractor and subcontractor settled the case before opening statements were heard by the Morris County Superior Court. Their contributions to the settlement were respectively: Driver’s carrier, State Farm, paid out $100,000; contractor’s carrier, Selective Insurance, paid out$800,000; and subcontractor’s carrier, Fireman’s Fund, agreed to pay $500,000. The property owner took the case to trial. After two days of trial the claim was settled, with the property owner’s carrier, Travelers Insurance, agreeing to pay $100,000. There was a gross $330,000 workers’ compensation lien (minus attorney fees), which was compromised to a net $200,000.
Painter Falls Through Ceiling – Attorney Argues Cause Is Lack of Safety Equipment
In September 2004, Plaintiff, a painter, was standing on a sheet rock ceiling at a Chinese restaurant in West New York, trying to stain wooden beams, when he fell through the ceiling and was injured.
Plaintiff fractured his right foot and suffered herniated neck and back discs. He underwent unsuccessful back surgery, has been declared disabled and suffers chronic pain.
Plaintiff sued the contractor and the subcontractor that employed him. He claimed that the sheet rock was not reinforced and that he was not supplied with required safety equipment. The parties settled the matter for $1.5 million. The subcontractor and the general contractor each agreed to pay $750,000. Part of the settlement will pay off a $345,000 worker’s compensation lien.
Negligently Installed Scaffolding Results in Two Story Fall
In May 2008, Plaintiff, a 24-year-old construction worker, was patching drywall while standing on planks over a shaft at a construction site in South Orange, New Jersey, when the planks gave way and he fell 20 feet, resulting in severe injuries. The plaintiff was employed by a subcontractor.
Plaintiff suffered a burst vertebra fracture at L-2. He underwent spinal fusion surgery at L1-L3. He still has difficulty bending and lifting heavy objects, but has returned to light-duty construction work.
Alleging premises liability, Plaintiff filed a civil action against the company that put up the scaffolding platform. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that it was the defendants’ negligent erection of the platform on which he was standing that caused the accident, and that the platform should have covered the entire shaft as opposed to a portion. The suit also named the subcontractor and the general contractor for failure to supervise the safety of the job site. The subcontractor claim was dismissed from the case because the plaintiff’s exclusive right to claims directly against his employer was limited to Workers’ Compensation.
The opposing experts agreed on what plaintiff’s injuries were and how they were causally related the accident. The issue was as to the extent and degree of his recovery.
Prior to trial in the Essex County Superior Court, the parties negotiated a settlement in the amount of $560,000. Preferred Mutual Insurance Co. contributed $510,000 on behalf of subcontractor and its owner. The insurer for the platform company, pursuant an indemnification agreement with general contractor, contributed $50,000.
Construction Worker Crushed to Death by Excavator, Wife Sues for Wrongful Death
In March of 2005, the plaintiff’s husband was crushed to death when he was run over by an excavator being operated at a residential construction site. The excavator was being operated by an employee of the company that also employed the decedent at the time of his death. The excavator operator had asked decedent to throw him his cell phone. When the decedent did so, he was standing directly in front of the stopped excavator and tossed the phone to the excavator operator, who stood up to catch it and lost his balance, causing him to lean on the controls of the excavator, which lurched forward, running over the decedent. Decedent was crushed to death; he died instantly at the scene. He was survived by his wife and their 5-year-old son.
Plaintiff’s widow brought a wrongful death action directly against the defendant employer. There was also a collateral workers’ compensation claim made.
The defense moved for summary judgment to preclude any recovery beyond that provided by workers’ compensation. Selective Insurance Co. provided the defendant employer with workers’ compensation and general liability coverage. Defense counsel contended that this case was a garden variety claim by an employee injured while at work and that it fell squarely within the matrix of the workers compensation scheme of exclusive recovery.
Plaintiff’s counsel opposed the motion based on the expert opinion of a construction site expert, who demonstrated the varied and number of instances in which this particular construction site was deficient as to recognized and established safety principles.
The summary judgment sought by defendant was denied, and the matter proceeded to trial. Shortly before a jury was selected for trial in the Superior Court, the parties negotiated a settlement in which the surviving child would keep his father’s workers’ compensation death benefits, (a value of $580,000); in addition Selective Insurance Co. agreed to pay a benefit in the sum of $385,000. The total settlement was $965,000.
Electrician Falls on Icy Sidewalk – Sues for Broken Ankle – Osha Says Unsafe
In February of 2004, Plaintiff was working as an electrician on a construction project at a grocery store in Aberdeen when he took a shortcut down an icy path, slipped and entangled his foot in a steel railing.
Plaintiff suffered a bimalleolar fracture of his left ankle, requiring surgery, and missed 6 months of work. Plaintiff will likely need ankle fusion or replacement surgery in the future. One ankle is noticeably larger then the other, and plaintiff has balance and back problems.
Plaintiff sued the grocery store and the Pennsylvania-based general contractor on site under a premises liability theory.
Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that the general contractor did not provide a safe worksite. The company knew that workers often took the icy shortcut, and did little to treat it besides telling workers to stop using it and putting up a movable fence. The plaintiff’s OSHA expert agreed, and opined that the defendant took insufficient safety measures.
Defense counsel argued that the repeated verbal warnings not to use the path and the installation of the safety fence were sufficient safety measures for the construction site.
The parties reached a $510,000 settlement after a conference with an Ocean County Superior Court Judge. The sum will be paid by the general contractor’s insurer, Zurich American Insurance Co., which had an indemnity agreement with defendant grocery store.
Construction Worker Injured in Fall, Can’t Recover Beyond Worker’s Compensation
In the summer of 2003 a construction worker was working on a tractor trailor at a jobsite when he fell off and suffered serious injuries. The 57 year old man broke his hip, elbow, and wrist. He underwent multiple surgeries to correct the injuries, and was left permanently disabled.
Plaintiff claimed that a machine operator employed by another construction company hit him with the material being loaded on the trailer, causing his fall. Defendants denied that the other worker caused the fall, and further argued that Louisiana Law should apply, as the employer of the machine operator was a Louisiana company. Under Louisiana Law, plaintiff’s remedy would be limited to his worker’s compensation claim.
At trial, the court agreed with the defendants, and in applying Louisiana law, found that plaintiff could not recover from the defendants for his injuries.
Unprotected Scaffolding Results in Construction Worker’s Fall
In May of 2005, a 24 year old construction worker fell from an unprotected scaffold on a jobsite. His fall was approximately 25 feet, and resulted in serious and permanent injuries to the young man. He broke his leg, elbow and wrist, as well as injuring his shoulder. He was unable to work in construction after the accident and was forced to take a lower paying job.
Plaintiff sued the construction company on the job site as well as the property owner, alleging that their failure to provide safety rails on the scaffolding was the cause of his fall and subsequent injuries. He sought damages for his pain and suffering, lost wages (past and future), and his unpaid medical bills.
Defendant’s denied negligence, and the case proceeded to trial in Hudson County Superior Court. The jury found that the property owner was 70% liable and the construction company was 30% liable. The total award to the plaintiff was $569,000.
Scaffolding Company Negligence Leads to Collapse; Injures Two Masons
A few weeks before Christmas in 2002, Plaintiff#1 and Plaintiff#2, both masons, were working at a construction site for a new hotel. While working high above the ground, the scaffolding they were using collapsed, dropping them 25 feet. Both were seriously injured. Plaintiff#1 tore the meniscus of both knees and required surgical repair. Plaintiff#2 suffered much more serious injuries. He fractured both legs in multiple places, and broke his hip and ankle. He required a multitude of surgeries, an external fixation device, and his ankle was fused together, making normal walking impossible. It was unclear at the time the case settled whether plaintiff#2 would ever be able to work again as a mason.
The men filed suit against the subcontractor on the job, and also the scaffolding company. They alleged that the scaffolding company was disassembling the scaffolding at the time of the collapse and failed to do it safely or to train their employees properly. The scaffolding company denied liability and claimed that plaintiffs themselves were responsible for the collapse.
The case went to mediation and the scaffolding company settled with the plaintiffs. Plaintiff#1 received $200,000, and Plaintiff#2 received $1.3 million dollars.
Bobcat Forklift Crushes Construction Worker
In late 2005, a construction worker and North Carolina resident working on the job site in New Jersey, was run over by a Bobcat forklift. Plaintiff suffered very serious injuries to his back and lower body. Some of the injuries, including the spinal injuries, required surgery.
Plaintiff filed suit in Federal Court against the driver of the Bobcat and the company that employed the driver. His wife joined in the lawsuit, seeking damages for loss of consortium. The case went to mediation and eventually the plaintiffs settled with Liberty Mutual, the defendant’s insurance carrier, for $450,000.
Spine Injury For Construction Worker Injured When Floor Collapses
In late December of 2004, a 31 year old construction worker was working on the third floor of a building when the floor beneath him collapsed, causing him to fall nearly 20 feet. This caused the worker to suffer serious and permanent injuries to his back and neck, and required a spinal fusion surgery.
He filed suit in Hudson County Superior Court, naming the general contractor, the installer of the floor joists, and the owner of the software that the installer used for the joist installation. Plaintiff alleged both that the joists failed and that the floor structure was built improperly. Defendants denied liability. The case was mediated and settled with the defendant general contractor paying the lion’s share of a $650,000 plaintiff award.