Articles Posted in New York Construction Accidents

New York law offers numerous protections for workers who suffer injuries while performing dangerous work. Construction workers routinely find themselves in unequal bargaining positions with contractors and property owners. If they demand better safety equipment, and safer conditions in general, they might find that speaking out puts their jobs at risk. Workers who are injured because of poor safety conditions might encounter difficulty establishing liability and recovering damages. Section 240 of the New York Labor Law, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” establishes liability for contractors and others who control the work on construction sites. Recent New York court decisions have examined various circumstances that support relief under the Scaffold Law.

Under the Scaffold Law, contractors and property owners are responsible for providing scaffolding and other equipment that gives “proper protection” to construction workers employed on the site. The law makes an exception for residential property owners who “contract for but do not direct or control the work.” In 1993, the New York Court of Appeals held in Ross v. Curtis-Palmer Hydro-Electric Co. that “the duty imposed by Labor Law § 240(1) is nondelegable.” The court further held that an owner or contractor is liable for damages caused by a breach of the Scaffold Law “regardless of whether it has actually exercised supervision or control over the work.”

The purpose of the Scaffold Law is, in one sense, to protect construction workers against “gravity-related risks,” as the Supreme Court in Manhattan noted earlier this year in Ryerson v. 580 Park Ave. The court held that the Scaffold Law did not apply because the plaintiff’s injury was the result of tripping and falling, not “falling from a height or being struck by a falling object.” In another Manhattan case, Terranova v. ERY Tenant, the court held that a plaintiff’s injury was covered by the Scaffold law even though it did not directly involve a falling object. The injury occurred after a beam began to swing during hoisting. The plaintiff “slipped while trying to get out of the beam’s path.” The court held that the Scaffold Law applied because “the process of lifting the beam created an elevation-related risk” to the plaintiff and other workers.
Continue reading ›

A malfunctioning crane that unexpectedly dropped a load of steel beams in February will delay completion of Four World Trade Center by more than two months. The faulty crane, which was manufactured in 1976, was taken apart immediately following the incident and is no longer in service. For the time being, the building site operated by Tishman Construction will continue with only one working crane. Luckily, no one on the ground was injured in the accident.

The crane malfunction is currently under investigation by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The New York City Department of Buildings notified crane operators of other FMC / Link-Belt TG 1900 cranes that all capacity loads should be reduced by at least 25 percent as a safety precaution until the cause of the accident can be determined. A crane with the same model number is currently in use at the Three World Trade Center building site. It was also tested after the incident despite the fact that its interior machinery was previously replaced.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found no other crane deficiencies at the Four World Trade Center building site. After investigating the incident, OSHA was also purportedly satisfied with Tishman Construction’s safety program. A representative for Tishman Construction’s corporate safety division, Dwayne Carter, alleged that the company’s safety rules prevented a more serious accident. According to Carter, an access zone and alarm system is used to prevent personnel from getting too close to a crane’s drop zone while in use. Without proper safety protocols, the construction accident would have likely been tragic.

Construction employees are often faced with hazardous working conditions on a daily basis. Unfortunately, building site accidents tragically hurt or kill thousands of workers each year. Despite that workplace injuries are normally subject to state workers’ compensation laws, a third party may be held legally responsible under Section 240 of New York’s Labor Law if a worker is injured due to defective or inadequate safety equipment including ladders and scaffolding. The manufacturer of equipment used on a construction site may be held responsible for creating a defective or dangerous product. Contractors also have a duty to warn workers about potential safety hazards and take proper safety precautions. If you were hurt while working at a building site, it is a good idea to contact a qualified personal injury attorney to explain your rights and your options for financial recovery.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

In your lawsuit for injuries suffered in a New York car crash, Bronx trip and fall, construction accident, from a defective or dangerous product or a dog bite, (to name a few examples), the single most important event in that lawsuit before the trial is known as the deposition, or “examination before trial.” During the deposition, you are placed under oath, and then asked a series of questions by the defense attorneys about your personal background, education, employment history, your accident, your injuries and damages. In essence, the deposition is a dress rehearsal for the trial of your case, and it provides both attorneys and the insurance companies an opportunity to analyze your abilities as a witness. Was your testimony credible? Would a jury like you as a witness and want to find in your favor? Did your testimony establish the elements of your case as to the negligence or carelessness of the defendants and their legal responsibility for your injuries?

Because of the vital importance of the deposition, you should make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before, and arrive for the deposition clear headed and well rested. If it’s possible, it is better for you not to take pain killers that you would normally take if they have side effects which could affect your alertness and stamina. Additionally, it is my opinion that if you are feeling more of the effects of your injuries while you are testifying, you will be more likely to emphasize the pain and disability form those injuries. I also strongly believe, although many attorneys do not do this, that preparation for the deposition, including how to respond to questions about your accident and injuries most effectively, should be done prior to the date of your deposition. Typically, lawyers meet with their clients to prepare an hour before (sometimes 15 minutes before) the deposition is to take place–this is a huge mistake, especially considering the importance of the deposition and the likelihood that you will be somewhat anxious and less likely to be able to remember the instructions you are given.

When testifying, you must keep your cool and testify in a calm and clear fashion. Defense attorneys have numerous strategies to rattle you, anger you, intimidate you and attempt to cause you to lose your focus and concentration. It is critical that you avoid these traps–your goal should be to convince the defense attorneys that if the case reaches trial, you will be a formidable witness. You will know that you accomplished this goal if within a month or two of the deposition, the defense attorneys approach your attorney to discuss settlement of your case–in my experience, this happens frequently when the client does well at his or her deposition.

Part 2 of this article will focus on the content of your testimony–how to testify most effectively to prove your case.

Continue reading ›

On March 15, 2008, in a fatal New York construction accident, a construction crane collapsed on East 51rst Street in Manhattan, killied seven people and injuring several others. Aides to the Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, said they had been told by the Office of Emergency Management that the crane fell on two buildings, destroying one at 305 East 50th Street and partly collapsing the building at 301 East 50th Street. The big white crane which fell appeared to be about 20 stories tall, according to onlookers. Firefighters carried stretchers at the scene of the accident, as people were feared to be trapped beneath the wreckage. Apparently, just before the crane collapsed, it was lifting material that apparently fell and struck a girder that connected the crane to the building.

Construction has increasingly become a deadly business — especially in New York, where laborers routinely dangle from skyscrapers, all part of a building boom that has defied the national slowdown. In January, in another New York fatal construction accident, high-rise concrete forms collapsed at the site of Donald Trump’s hotel and condo complex in Lower Manhattan. An Ukrainian immigrant worker who was the father of several children was decapitated as he plunged 42 stories to his death. Three others were injured.

Two months earlier, another immigrant worker was killed when he fell 15 stories, prompting the creation of a task force to cut down on scaffolding accidents.

Continue reading ›