On Sept. 22, 2004, plaintiff David Nowak, a 35-year-old
pipefitter, was operating a JLG, stick boom aerial lift at the KVP
Warehouse Construction Project, in Reading. Nowak had positioned
the lift near an elevated I-beam to perform welding.
As he slowly elevated himself in the work basket, he
inadvertently touched the drive/steer controller, causing the lift
to bolt upward. After the lift raised up toward the horizontal
I-beam, Nowak was then pinned between the beam - with his back
against it - and the control panel of the lift, which was lodged
into his chest. With his abdomen pressed hard against the control
panel and the controller pressed full forward, the lift rammed into
Nowak's midsection repeatedly, pushing his back into the I-beam,
until his foreman finally rescued him by hitting the emergency stop
on the machine's ground controls. He sustained multiple severe
Nowak sued manufacturer JLG Industries Inc.,
as well as the company that leased and serviced the lift, United
Rentals North America Inc. alleging design and manufacturing
defects, as well as poor maintenance and training.
Abdomen; colon; colostomy; deep vein
thrombosis; fistula; fracture, L3;fracture,L5; loss of consortium
Nowak was hospitalized from Sept. 22 to Nov. 3 at Lehigh Valley
Hospital. He was kept in a medically induced coma. He was diagnosed
with burst fractures at L3 and L4 along with a major colon injury.
He also sustained a deep vein thrombosis in his right arm and
ventilator-dependent respiratory failure. While he was
hospitalized, Nowak underwent an exploratory laparotomoy with
diverting colostomy and bag insertion, and seven other surgical
procedures. At discharge, he could ambulate only with assistance.
Nowak was readmitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital in June, 2005 for
additional abdominal surgery because his fistula had become
infected. He then developed another infection of the abdominal wall
mass in June 2006, which eventually required surgery in February,
2007.That procedure included the removal of Nowak's hernia sac.
In June 2007, Nowak went to the Cleveland
Clinic for a second opinion. The surgeons there recommended
conservative, symptomatic management of the recurrent fistula
infections. Plaintiff's counsel asserted that Nowak has constant
pain in his midsection along with impaired bowel and bladder
function. Counsel contended that Nowak also suffered an
embarrassing episode where his colostomy bag exploded in public.
Nowak was unable to work with the injuries and that forced his wife
to return to work to provide for their family. Asserting Nowak's
condition was chronic and permanent, plaintiffs counsel sought an
unspecified amount for his pain and suffering.
RESULT The parties agreed to a
$4.2 million settlement.
INSURER(S) Old Republic Insurance
Co.for United Rentals
Donald E.Jennings, Ed.D., life care planning,
Bala Cynwyd, PA
Timothy Joganich, M.S., CHFP, human factors -
see also technical-engineeringergonomics, Penns Park, PA
Douglas Moreland, M.D., neurosurgery,
Rexford L.Thomas Jr., Ph.D., M.D., FACS,
general surgery, West Seneca, NY
Andrew C. Verzilli, M.B.A., economics,
Andrew G. Verzilli, Ph.D., economics,
Mona Goldman Yudkoff, R.N., M.P.H., C.R.R.N.,
life care planning, Bala Cynwyd, PA Kenneth J.Zimmer. P.E., aerial
lifts, Fond du Lac,WI
DEFENSE EXPERT(S) Barris J.
Evulich, PE, aerial lifts, Kingsburg, CA David Pope, P.E.,
metallurgy, Philadelphia, PA
EDITOR'S NOTE This report is
based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel.
Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls