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Worker Dies at Queens Construction Site

Labor Law § 240(1), a New York State statute, imposes upon owners and general contractors a non-delegable duty to provide proper and adequate safety devices to afford protection to construction workers working on a building or structure subject to elevation-related hazards. No matter how stringent the safety standards are in New York regarding construction, all construction laborers are at risk every single day while on the job.

Any breach of the statute will impose absolute liability upon the owner and general contractor at the construction site. Moreover, negligence of the injured construction worker is of no consequence against a Labor Law §240(1) claim. This statute, along with Labor Law §241(6) and §200 (codification of common law standards) allows an injured construction worker to recover monetary damages for injuries suffered in a construction site accident.

Earlier this month, a wall collapsed at a construction site in Rego Park, Queens on January 10, 2011, killing a construction worker and seriously injuring three other workers at the site. This was the first construction death recorded in New York City this year, according to New York City’s Department of Buildings. The accident occurred as two workers were perched atop the wall, which was 18 feet tall, pouring concrete into the spaces in the cinder block wall, when it collapsed. There were two workers on the ground near the wall and beneath the scaffolding when the wall began to collapse.

The two workers at the bottom of the wall were crushed between the blitz of falling cinder blocks and the scaffolding. The New York City Fire Department responded to the scene within minutes and started digging through the bricks to reach the buried men. It was there that one of the men went into cardiac arrest and was later pronounced dead on the way to Elmhurst Hospital Center from the injuries he sustained. The other three construction workers were in serious condition with fractures and trauma, but were stable. All four men were illegal immigrants from Mexico who had been hard-working men trying to realize the American Dream. The City of New York issued a stop-work order at the construction site pending investigations. The five-story building under construction had six violations since June 2009 before a permit was issued for the construction site.

Examples of construction site accidents that cause injuries to workers include (1) scaffolding collapse or structure collapse; (2) fall from a ladder or scaffold; (3) workers struck by falling objects and (4) electrical hazards, electrocution or electrical burns.

The owner and the general contractor must be held accountable and compensate an injured construction worker for their injuries arising from an accident, pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages. Whether the construction worker is a citizen or not, does not matter where the worker is injured because he was not provided with any safety device, or when the safety device he was given broke or failed in its function to prevent the worker from falling feet to the ground.

Many of the tragic and painful injuries could have been avoided if proper safety precautions had been taken by the owner and general contractor at the construction site. But some companies cut corners and ignore safety regulations in order to save money on their end or complete jobs faster. If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury in a construction site accident, you should contact the New York construction accident victim personal injury attorneys at Leav & Steinberg, LLP.

Recent Case that Illustrates Leav & Steinberg, LLP’s Effectiveness in Handling New York Construction Accident Cases: $2,500,000 settlement: A 62-year-old man suffered a comminuted tibial plateau fracture with compartment syndrome to his right leg requiring multiple surgeries and eventual total right knee replacement with right drop foot syndrome, when he fell from an extension ladder at a construction site in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

The defense claimed that an instruction was given at the job site that the ladder was broken and no worker should use it in the course of the work. However, it was shown that when the order was given, plaintiff was on a break and not present at the site when the warning was issued. It was also proven that despite knowing the ladder was not safe, the contractor at the job site did not remove it or prevent its use by other workers.

When plaintiff returned to the site, the extension ladder was in an open position and in the same general area he was working previously showing another laborer where concrete needed to be chopped/excavated from the steel beams. As plaintiff was atop the third or fourth rung of the ladder, the right leg of the ladder broke, causing it to shift and plaintiff to fall to the ground sustaining a knee injury.

Plaintiff’s counsel successfully moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability against the owner and general contractor at the construction site. Plaintiff won a favorable decision on this issue; having a favorable decision on liability, the only issue going forward was damages. The settlement was negotiated shortly before the trial jury’s determination of damages in the courthouse in Brooklyn.

Wall Collapse at Queens Construction Site Kills One Worker and Injures Three, The New York Times, January 10, 2011, by Liza Robbins and Mick Meenan
Wall Collapse Strikes a Family of Brothers, The New York Times, January 11, 2011, by Fernanda Santos
By Daniela F. Henriques