Verdicts and Settlements:
$15,000,000 Settlement For 26 Year Old Construction Worker Paralyzed In Accident
Stavros E. Sitinas recently obtained the 8th largest mediated settlement in Federal Court and in the top 20 of all NY State Courts on behalf of a 26 year old laborer who was severely injured when a bucket containing construction debris fell six-stories and struck our client. Miraculously, the construction worker survived. Tragically, he will never walk again as he is paralyzed from the navel down.
This story begins in Tribeca, where the owners of a six-story condominium hired a construction company to replace their roof. The construction company hired an Engineering Company to design a two-bay scaffold system, which was to be erected between this building and a neighboring building. One of the scaffold bays contained a staircase that connected the ground level to the roof. The adjacent bay was to be enclosed with mesh and include a chute, where debris would be thrown down and removed from the worksite. For larger items, a material hoist was supposed to have been mounted to an iron beam on the building’s roof. This material hoist was to have a 1200 lb lifting capacity.
On the first day of the project, as the old concrete roof was being ripped up, the construction company foreman realized that the material hoist was not functioning. Rather than seeking a new hoist or even renting such a hoist (which are readily available) the foreman for the construction company hastily decided that they would use a rope pulley system to lower buckets of construction debris down six stories. Of course, unlike a material hoist, there was nothing preventing a full bucket of materials from free-falling and crashing to the ground if anyone let go of the rope. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Our client, a 26 year-old man with absolutely no experience in the construction trade, was hired by this contractor to work as a Laborer at this jobsite. Upon arriving at the jobsite for his very first day of work, he received absolutely no training, no direction or supervision – in fact, he was not even provided with a hard hat or even work gloves. He was simply told that he and two other Laborers would be pulling a rope that would raise an empty bucket to the roof. Once there, the bucket would be filled with debris and then the three Laborers (who, in reality, were just three friends from Newark, NJ with no construction experience whatsoever) would slowly release the rope and allow the filled bucket to make its way down to the ground level. Once there, our client’s job was to empty the debris into small dumpsters with wheels and push those dumpsters to the sidewalk for removal by a carting company. Thereafter, these Laborers would pull the rope and hoist the empty bucket back up to the roof so the process could be repeated.
At one point, the foreman directed that there was no need for all three Laborers to do this work and that one of them should go up on the roof to help tear up the old materials. With just two Laborers on the ground level, this process became extremely more dangerous that it already was. Now, instead of three men holding the rope, there were only two.
Shortly thereafter, an extremely heavy bucket was released from the roof. Only one Laborer was holding the rope on the ground level and the bucket was simply too heavy for him. The rope either slipped out of his hands or was intentionally released, causing this heavy bucket of construction debris to free-fall from the roof.
Tragically, our 26 year old client was directly under this free-falling bucket and the results were catastrophic. The bucket hit our client, grazing his head but shattering his spine and breaking his arm.
Miraculously, our client survived this horrific accident, but at great expense. He would spend the next two-and-one-half months in the hospital and at an in-patient rehabilitation center. He was informed that not only was he paralyzed from the navel down, but that he would likely never walk again. He would require multiple surgeries to both stabilize his spine and to repair his broken right arm. More significantly, he would have to learn to care for himself while being confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. He had to come to terms with the fact that his life as he knew it, was essentially over. For the rest of his life, he will need medical care and be dependent on home health aides and others to care for him.
Mr. Sitinas filed suit against the Condominium and their managing agent. He also filed suit against the Engineering Company that designed the scaffold, but after realizing they were not liable for anything which may have caused this accident, he discontinued against them. The Condominium, in turn, sued the construction company – something the plaintiff could not do, as they were his employer and the Worker’s Compensation laws bar personal injury suits by employees against their employers.
After the completion of all depositions and the exchange of expert witness reports, the parties agreed to mediate this case. The parties agreed to employ the services of retired Justice Allen Hurkin-Torres, one of the most respected mediators in New York.
After nearly six hours of intense negotiations, Mr. Sitinas was not only able to secure a significant $15,000,000 settlement for his client but he also convinced the defendants to waive a Worker’s Compensation lien of approximately $390,000. If not waived, the client would have been responsible to pay back a significant portion of this $390,000 lien out of his own proceeds from the settlement. Most impressive of all, this substantial settlement was achieved in roughly one and one-half years; less, than half the average time for such cases.
Mr. Sitinas expertise in handling complex construction accident cases benefitted his client in a way that will financially protect the client for the rest of his life while obtaining fair and reasonable compensation for these life-altering injuries.