An ironworker whose right leg was amputated and left foot crushed when a 3,000-pound granite base stone toppled over onto him during the renovation of a 106-year-old Philadelphia building has settled with the work site’s general contractor and three other defendants for $16.3 million.
In Jones v. Intech Construction, according to the plaintiffs’ mediation memorandum, 47-year-old plaintiff Alfonso Jones was working on the renovation of the Lafayette Building in Philadelphia, which was being prepared to house the Hotel Monaco.
Jones was working in the building’s basement as one of his co-workers, Fran Kenney, was attempting to insert another shore pole under one of the granite base stones located at ground level above Jones, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
The base stone suddenly toppled over onto Jones, cutting off his right leg and crushing his left foot, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said.
According to Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represented Jones along with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky partner Andrew R. Duffy, it took Jones’ co-workers about 20 minutes to devise a lift mechanism and remove the base stone from on top of him.
Jones remained conscious the entire time, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
Jones now uses a prosthetic leg but has difficulty getting around and is often confined to a wheelchair, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said.
Jones can no longer work and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
The plaintiffs’ memorandum said the accident was “entirely preventable.”
According to the plaintiffs’ memorandum, the renovation project required that the sidewalks in front of the building, along with areas underneath the building’s granite facade, be demolished so that new structural steel could be installed in the basement to support a new sidewalk.
Large granite pilasters in front of the building sat on the large granite base stones, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
Because the structural support for the base stones was removed when the sidewalk was demolished, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said, the stones required temporary support.
According to the plaintiffs’ memorandum, Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and American National Standards Institute/American Society of Safety Engineers standards require that the shoring measures be fully engineered.
“However, on this project, it is universally admitted that the shoring was not engineered, not designed and not properly installed,” according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum. “The multi-ton load was not thoroughly analyzed and no comprehensive system was designed to support it.”
Instead, the plaintiffs’ memorandum said, defendant Intech Construction, the general contractor, installed “a collection of wooden posts and miscellaneous aluminum shore poles.”
Eight days before Jones’ accident, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum, workers on the site noticed one of the base stones had become loose despite the installation of the shore poles. When they removed the base stone the following day, they realized it was not pinned to the structure.
Intech, however, failed to take any additional precautions to protect workers while the stability of the stones and effectiveness of the shoring were analyzed, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.
“Demolition continued, structural steel work proceeded and no ‘off-limits’ or other safety zones were established,” the plaintiffs’ memorandum said. “Al was required to work in the immediate vicinity of the improperly shored granite blocks while demolition equipment banged away nearby, rattling the surrounding structure.”
The plaintiffs’ memorandum said Intech’s contract gave it “absolute control over job site safety.”
Intech, however, argued in its own settlement conference memorandum that it had properly shored up the base stones before Jones and Kenney improperly attempted to install another shore pole without Intech’s authorization.
Intech also said in its memorandum that it had relied on defendant engineering firm O’Donnell & Naccarato’s advice, via email a few months before the accident, in shoring up the base stones.
But O’Donnell & Naccarato maintained in its own settlement memorandum that it was not actually retained by Intech until the afternoon of Jones’ accident, at which point Intech hired the firm to satisfy Licenses and Inspections’ demand for a shoring plan so that the project could proceed.
According to O’Donnell & Naccarato, while its project engineer did discuss the building’s granite column cladding in an email with Intech’s superintendent a few months before Jones’ accident, Intech never mentioned having relied on the email to shore up the base stones during the OSHA investigation following Jones’ accident.
It wasn’t until close to a year after Jones filed suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas that Intech convinced the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint joining O’Donnell & Naccarato as a defendant, the engineering firm said in its memorandum.
The plaintiffs’ memorandum also alleged that Delta/BJDS, the project’s demolition contractor, was in charge of removing the sidewalk but had only recently gotten into the demolition business, having previously been primarily an abatement contractor.
“Thus, Delta was demolition-clueless, so much so that Delta’s voluminous safety manual failed to even address demolition,” the plaintiffs said in their memorandum, alleging Delta failed to perform an OSHA-required engineering survey of the site.
But Delta argued in its own settlement conference memorandum that Intech was solely responsible for shoring up the base stones.
The plaintiffs also alleged in their memorandum that defendant Central Metals, the sister company of Jones’ employer, Roma Steel Erection Inc., failed to comply with its OSHA obligation to provide workers with a safe job site and had been required under its contract with Intech to “‘furnish and install all temporary shoring as required to perform [its] work.'”
Central Metals argued in its settlement conference memorandum, however, that it had delegated steel installation responsibilities to Roma and that the steel installation did not compromise the structural support of the base stones in any event.
Central Metals also said in its memorandum that Roma was responsible for ensuring the safety of its own employees and that Roma diligently took measures to do so.
Jones and his wife, Christa Jones, settled in mediation Wednesday for $16.3 million with Intech, Delta/BJDS, O’Donnell & Naccarato and Central Metals, according to Mongeluzzi.
Mongeluzzi said it was unclear how the settlement would be apportioned between those four defendants.
Mongeluzzi said he believed the settlement was spurred on by the defendants’ fear of how a jury would react to the Joneses, whom he said “are among the most likeable, charming, well-loved clients we’ve ever represented.”
Counsel for Delta, William E. Schaefer of Hendrzak & Lloyd in Center Valley, Pa., and counsel for Central Metals, Walter Swayze III and Richard A. Godshall of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney in Philadelphia, declined to comment on the settlement.
Counsel for Intech, Joseph R. Fowler of Fowler Hirtzel McNulty & Spaulding in Philadelphia, and counsel for O’Donnell & Naccarato, Richard Davies of Powell, Trachtman, Logan, Carrle & Lombardo in King of Prussia, Pa., could not be reached for comment at press time.