$3,600,000 – Ironworker Wins Settlement

James Raso, 43, was injured at work when 20-foot-long steel roofing panels fell on him from a crane. A journeyman ironworker, Raso was unable to return to work due to his injuries.  He suffered a ruptured spleen, which had to be removed surgically, fractured ribs, collapsed lungs and damage to his femoral artery and nerve. For six weeks he was hospitalized. Despite physical therapy, he still limped. He also claimed that after the accident he developed cognitive difficulties including reasoning and memory problems.

The accident occurred while a crane operator was unloading the panels from a flatbed trailer. The operator had successful lifted 20 loads before the accident by raising the panels to shoulder level and swinging the crane away from the trailer. The 21st time, though, the operator suddenly' jerked the load upward after bringing it to shoulder level, witnesses said, causing the slings to unweight and the the panels to fall out and crush Raso.

CMC Equipment Rental Co., Inc., owned the crane, and Raso's employer supplied the riggings. Raso sued CMC, alleging the crane operator was negligent. Raso maintained the operator lifted the load directly above him in violation of the defendant's own rules.

He contended the operator had inadvertently pulled the swing lever instead of the lift lever, then panicked and braked, causing the unweighting. He also alleged the operator had lifted the load in the blind, without a clear view of the load.

CMC argued the load fell because it was rigged improperly. The defendant also claimed statutory immunity because the operator was a "borrowed servant."

On the question of damages, the defendant said Raso's reasoning and memory problems were emotional rather than organic in origin and, thus, could be improved by therapy.

Raso was a Vietnam veteran. He said after the accident he suffered flashbacks both of the work injury and injuries sustained in Vietnam. He had been earning about 35,000 a year and his economist projected his loss earning capacity in a range between $1.09 million and $2.26 million. Raso's internist testified the plaintiff's life expectancy was reduced by the loss of his spleen.

Following lengthy settlements conferences, the parties settled  for $3.6 million.

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Robert J. Mongeluzzi

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