As we all know, some contractors will resign from their original plans when ‘meeting the deadline’ is at stake. A new plan, established in the spur of the moment, does not always meet the safety requirements of the original one. As a result, this can expose workers to significant risk of construction accidents.
In a recent scenario, a thirty-year-old sprinkler system installer, employed by a subcontractor on the construction project, was injured while excavating a trench in the backyard of the home. A stone retaining wall, adjacent to the trench collapsed, injured the man’s left ankle and foot, resulting in a trimalleolar ankle fracture. The injured man sued the company supervising the project to recover damages for the sustained injury.
At the trial, the jury found that the supervising defendant was in fact the general contractor since he selected the subcontractors, coordinated the work for the contractors, and had the authority to direct and supervise all workers, including the injured man. Additionally, the jury found that the defendant (the general contractor) was liable for the injuries of the construction worker, because he failed to construct the wall in accordance to the original specifications and had also failed to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the injured man, which was a substantial factor in causing the accident.
The jury awarded the plaintiff (construction worker) $2,640,000 for medical expenses, pain, and suffering. The general contractor did not agree with the jury’s verdict and asked the Judge to revoke it. The Judge, however, ruled in favor of the worker. The Judge explained that the defendant had originally submitted a plan to have the retaining wall constructed with mortar. Instead, the defendant had then directed to build a dry stack wall, which, pursuant to the testimony of a trial expert, was not as stable as the wall called for in the original approved plans. The testimony showed that the wall, as built, was less stable and more subject to overturning than the wall previously designed. The plaintiff's expert testified that, in his opinion, the wall would not have collapsed if the trench being dug next to it had been built according to original plan. The Judge clearly stated that the defendant was involved in digging the property near the wall and failed to provide reasonable and adequate protection and safety to the plaintiff. Attorneys representing the general contractor did not give up and appealed the Judge’s decision.
The Appellate Judges of the Second Department (which hears appeals from the courts in Kings and Queens Counties) upheld the trial judge’s decision. They reasoned that the jury had rational basis to reach such verdict and the Court can set aside a jury verdict only in special circumstances. Regarding the defendant’s allegations, suggesting that plaintiff’s witnesses were not telling the truth, the Appellate Court explained that it is for the jury to make determinations as to the credibility of the witnesses, and great deference in this regard is accorded to the jury, which had the opportunity to see and hear the witnesses. Additionally, the Second Department held that the award for future medical expenses should be slightly reduced as the original sum was speculative. Accordingly, the Second Department upheld the verdict in the total amount of $2,600,000.
Our attorneys not only zealously litigate but also successfully appeal personal injury cases. Not many law firms can say they were instrumental in changing the law. That’s precisely what we did in 2011. That year, our firm took the case, Wilinski v. 334 East 92nd Housing Development Fund Corp., all the way to New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany. Our successful appeal set not only a new legal precedent (new law) for the entire state of New York, but more importantly allowed additional protection for construction workers, where they were deprived of such protection before.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact The Platta Law Firm for a free legal consultation by calling 212–514–5100 (24/7), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting our law firm in Financial District of Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions using the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.