$3,650,000 Settlement for Construction Accident

Blume Donnelly partner David M. Fried represented a now a 36-year-old man who, on March 3, 2006, was employed by an electrical contractor hired to perform the electrical work on the new construction of a single-family home in Kinnelon, NJ. Our client fell through an inadequately guarded stairwell opening on the second floor, landing in the basement. He is paraplegic. The gross settlement was $3,650,000, in large part because the mainly culpable defendants had limited insurance coverage. The owners of the property decided not to hire a traditional general contractor. Instead, they hired a builder to serve as construction supervisors, and paid him a flat fee for his services. The builder secured bids from subcontractors for most trades needed, and the owners made the final decision of which to hire. The contract between the builder and the owners did not specifically include job site safety supervision among the builder’s duties. The owners obtained the construction permit, and also hired some subcontractors themselves, including the plumbers and roofers. One subcontractor was a framer. They framed an opening for a staircase, from the basement to the second floor. The framer failed to provide proper fall protection for this opening, that was not guarded. OSHA and other building codes required that this opening either be completely covered, or the side at the top of the stairs was required to have horizontal boards to serve as an adequate railing to prevent such a fall into the opening. Instead, the framer simply placed some 2 x 12 boards over the opening, leaving more than one foot exposed on either side of the board. This violated OSHA standards. Another subcontractor was hired to perform HVAC installation. The HVAC company performed work in the opening, and moved the boards left by the framer, but they claimed they added more boards to cover over the opening. There was a dispute whether the builder or the owners were responsible for safety supervision, with the owners claiming they did not have this duty simply because they tried to keep some control over the costs. Since the framer finished framing more than one month before the accident, both the builder and the owners had sufficient opportunities to observe the dangerous condition and either take steps to correct it, or get the framer back to correct the condition.,Our client sustained a spine fracture at T11-T12 in the fall, crushing his spine. This caused permanent paralysis resulting in loss of bowel, bladder and sexual function. Following surgery at Morristown Memorial Hospital to fix the fracture, our client spent approximately 3 months at a rehabilitation hospital, followed by several months of outpatient therapy. He has not worked since the accident.

David retained a life care planner who provided a life care plan of approximately 3.5 – 5 million dollars. Mr. Fried negotiated with our client’s worker’s compensation carrier, reducing the worker’s compensation lien from one million dollars down to five hundred thousand dollars, and, for them to pay all future medical expenses as part of this settlement. The settlement is split among the defendants, some of whom had limited insurance policies.