Accord Reached In Scissor Lift Fall Suit

A man who fell from a dysfunctional scissor lift has settled with the owner of the lift and the maintenance company that inspected it for $2.85 million.

In September 2008, John Sockel, a plumber working for Edwin M. Yoder Inc., was installing pipe at the York Business Center using a scissor lift he borrowed from the manager of the property, Brasler Realty, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum. During the project, Sockel was standing on the lift’s platform extension deck when the deck failed and separated from the lift, causing him to fall 20 feet to the floor, the plaintiff’s memorandum said.

Sockel lost consciousness and was taken to York Hospital. He suffered a concussion and retrograde amnesia, as well as a torn rotator cuff, broken wrist, sinus fractures, a spleen laceration and a dislocated elbow, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.

Sockel underwent several surgeries for his injuries in his shoulder and arm. He also received treatment for his brain injury, which included speech therapy and cognitive therapy.

He filed suit against Brasler Realty and Penn Equipment, the maintenance company that had inspected the machine after Brasler purchased it used in 2007. Brasler was at fault, Sockel alleged in his pretrial memorandum, because it did not provide equipment that was safe to use, nor did it offer Sockel any training or instructions on the use of the machine.

Penn Equipment was also at fault, Sockel alleged, because it returned the machine to Brasler without fixing it or insisting that it be fixed even though it knew it wasn’t safe to use.

According to Andrew Verzilli, the plaintiff’s economics expert, Sockel’s loss of earnings ranges from $1,102,869 to $1,263,707. According to Alex Karras, the plaintiff’s life care expert, his future medical costs will be $554,849.

Sockel initially demanded $3 million from Brasler and $1 million from Penn Equipment. The parties eventually settled for $2 million from Brasler and $850,000 from Penn Equipment.

Brasler said in its pretrial memorandum that it was not responsible because it was Sockel’s statutory employer. Brasler also said Sockel should have known and actually may have known that the lift was not safe to use.

In its memorandum, Brasler alleged that Chip Fegley, Sockel’s boss, saw Sockel point to something on the machine and say he “really did not like that.” Brasler speculated that he may have been referring to the extension platform, which was visibly coming loose. Even if he didn’t notice it, it said, he had been using the lift for almost a week before the accident and should have noticed.

Brasler also alleged that Penn Equipment was responsible because, in its inspection, it did not find anything wrong with the platform extension.

Sockel’s attorney David L. Kwass of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky said this case was unique because the accident was captured entirely on videotape by a security camera.

“That allowed us to have a particularly precise understanding of the failure mode,” he said. “It’s very clear what failed when and in what order.”

Defense counsel declined to comment.

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