'Gates of Hell': Worker Wins $7.25 Million Settlement After Fall Through Glass Floor at Philadelphia's Rodin Museum

SMBB
May 10, 2016
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A local energy-efficiency engineer who nearly plunged to his death when he fell nearly four stories through a glass floor at Philadelphia's Rodin Museum in 2012 has been awarded a $7.25 million settlement, his lawyers announced Tuesday.

Phani Guthula was inspecting light fixtures at the Rodin Museum, an outpost of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Ben Franklin Parkway, Nov. 26, 2012 when he fell 38 feet through an unsecured glass attic floor, his attorneys said in a statement. Guthula suffered numerous fractures and trauma from "head to toe," the attorneys said, underwent more than 15 surgeries and spent more than a month and a half in the hospital as a result of his extensive injuries. He'll require lifelong medical care, the attorneys said.

"One of the Rodin's most famous sculptures is titled Gates of Hell," attorney Larry Bendesky, a member of Guthula's legal team, said. "The chilling picture of Phani Guthula falling nearly to his death could have the same title; his life has been a living hell every day since his fall."

Guthula was represented by the Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky firm. Named as defendants in the suit were the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Allied Barton Security Services, which contracts with the museum.

Lawyers said that the Rodin had recently undergone renovations and that railings to keep people off the hazardous glass floor were not in place. Security officers at the museum were "uninformed and inattentive, and there was no signage to warn against a fall hazard to which everyone -- after the accident -- agreed existed when he almost met his death," attorney David Kwass said.

The museum was open for business at the time of Guthula's fall, and the fall was captured on surveillance video.

Lawyers said the settlement came on Friday just before jury selection was set to begin in the case.

"Mr. Guthula hopes that there are lessons learned by those who are responsible for workplace safety," Bendesky said. "The best plans and precautions are meaningless -- as they were in this case -- if they are not followed by everyone involved."

NBC10 has reached out to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for comment on the settlement.



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Related Attorneys

Larry Bendesky
Larry Bendesky Managing Shareholder

Office: 215-575-2952
Mobile: 610-639-3221

David L. Kwass
David L. Kwass Partner

Office: 215-575-2978
Mobile: 215-518-0467

David J. Langsam
David J. Langsam Associate

Office: 215-575-2958