Appellate Court Determines That Immigration Status Not Relevant When Determining Damages

In a victory for safety and for undocumented workers in construction accidents, a recent appellate court decision from the First Department, which reviews cases from the Bronx and New York Counties, upheld a trial court’s decision not to consider a plaintiff’s immigration status because it would be unfairly prejudicial and not relevant in determining his damages.

In 2003, Jorge Angamarca, a carpentry worker, fell two stories through an improperly covered opening in a roof. Under New York Labor Law Section 240, unless a worker is provided with safety equipment, including proper scaffolding, ladders, safety harnesses, and other devices which would protect him from falls from heights, there is “absolute liability” (meaning absolute responsibility against those parties with very few exceptions) against the owners, general contractors, and construction managers of the property where the accident occurred. Mr. Angamarca, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador, suffered severe brain and spinal cord injuries in the accident. Most of the defendants in the case settled prior to trial, but the builder and property owner, Jefferson Townhouses, decided to go to trial, a very risky proposition in a Labor Law 240 case. In 2009, a jury awarded Mr. Angamarca a total of $20 million, including: $100,000 for past pain and suffering; $1 million for future pain and suffering; $1.5 million for past medical expenses; $16.7 million for future medical expenses; $74,000 for past lost earnings; and $573,000 for future lost earnings.

The Appellate Court in Angamarca followed the directive of the highest court in New York, which has ruled that immigrants working in the United States illegally can still recover lost wages after an injury. The Court held that regardless of a worker’s immigration status, he or she can recover damages when the worker’s injuries are so severe that the worker is physically incapable of working.

If you or a loved one are injured in a construction accident, any other type of accident, or from a dangerous product, contact the Westchester County Personal Injury attorneys at the White Plains, New York Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free consultation with an experienced trial attorney who will fight the insurance companies to maximize your compensation for your injuries, lost earnings, medical and hospital expenses, and loss of enjoyment of life.