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Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Fractures, Facial Fractures - $900,000 Settlement

Type of action: Construction Incident-Ironworker
Injuries alleged: Traumatic brain injury, spinal fractures, facial fractures
Tried before judge or jury (or mediation): Jeffrey Stern (mediator)
Special Damages Amount: $900,000.00 plus reduction of worker's compensation lien of approximately $180,000.00
Date (of verdict or settlement): March 19, 2002
Highest Offer: $900,000.00

Attorney for plaintiff: Kenneth I. Kolpan
Law Office of Kenneth I. Kolpan, P.C.
175 Federal Street
Boston, Ma. 02110

Other useful information:

On December 15, 1997, plaintiff, 40 years old and father of three, was erecting steel forty two feet above the ground. He had made a single bolt connection between the iron beam and the first column, then cooned across the beam towards its mid-point while the beam was being held by the a cable attached to the crane owned and operated by two defendants, respectively.

As the plaintiff went around the pill and choker assembly at the beam's mid-point, the beam inexplicably moved downward. Plaintiff continued across the beam to tie the beam's end to other column. When the plaintiff was within three to four feet of the column tie in, the beam upon which he was seated again started moving downward. Plaintiff yelled and signaled defendant crane operator to bring the end of the beam up. Instead, the beam went dangerously lowered. Plaintiff frantically signaled for defendant to correct the dangerous situation. He didn't. Plaintiff was thrown off the beam, struck a beam below and then fell forty two feet to the ground.

Plaintiff sued the defendants for failing to maintain visual and audio contact with the Plaintiff ironworker, who sat perilously on the hoisted beam.

Liability was contested by each of the defendants. Though the plaintiff described the motion of the beam immediately before he was thrown, claiming that the operator must have lessened the tension on the cable holding the choker, the crane operator (who was the only other witness to the incident) testified that he did nothing wrong. Rather he claimed that the choker came disconnected from the cable because the plaintiff was bouncing the team in an attempt to line it up with the remaining column. Parties did agree that the cable had unhooked the safety latch, causing the beam and choker to fall to the ground.

Plaintiffs alleged that the crane operator had negligently failed to maintain cable tension; his employer, a subcontractor was vicariously liable for his negligent actions; the subcontractor was negligent for failing to provide fall protection (safety nets and/or flooring); and the general contractor was negligent for failing to meet its non-delegable responsibility for overall safety on the project.

Defendants contended that the accident was caused by the plaintiff bouncing the beam and his failure to wear a safety harness.  Plaintiff countered that had he been wearing a safety harness, he would have been attached to the beam as it crashed to the ground and would likely have been killed.

Case was settled for $900,000 and the worker's compensation carrier reduced its lien by nearly $180,000. Settlement was achieved with the able mediation services of Jeffrey Stern, Esq.