On May 25, 1994, plaintiff, Anthony Stendardo, slipped and fell on a set of steel industrial stairs, smashing the back of his head on the stairs. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was working for Frank W. Hake, Inc. at a paper mill in Manayunk which was owned and operated by defendant, Jefferson Smurfit Corporation. On the date of the accident, there were approximately thirty outside contractors working at the paper mill including defendant, Mobile Dredging & Pumping Company.
Plaintiff, a member of the Piledrivers Local Union 454, was working in the basement of the paper mill repacking pumps. Employees of defendant, Mobile Dredging & Pumping Company, were working in a nearby area of the basement vacuuming out paper pulp through various sections of hose and pipe that they positioned on the industrial stairs. Plaintiff had used these stairs several times that day without incident. Shortly after Mobile Dredging had removed its hose and pipe from the stairs, plaintiff slipped on paper pulp while descending the stairs, fell backward, and smashed the back of his head on the steel steps.
Plaintiffs alleged that Mobile was negligent in failing to cap the ends of their hose and pipe before dragging the hose and pipe up the stairs allowing the paper pulp to leak out onto the industrial stairs, causing plaintiff’s accident. Plaintiff also contended that Mobile violated their contract with Jefferson Smurf it which required Mobile to leave their work area “broom clean”. Mobile claimed that its vacuum truck was so powerful that it would suck the hoses “bone dry” and that the paper pulp could not have come from their hoses. Plaintiff presented eyewitness testimony that after the accident, a trail of paper pulp was seen in the same location where Mobile had located their hoses. Defendants contended that if plaintiff had slipped on paper pulp, such hazard was open and obvious.
Plaintiffs also alleged that Jefferson Smurfit Corporation, as the owner of the paper mill, had retained control of the worksite, and was responsible for safety. Plaintiffs also alleged that the dimensions of the risers and tread depth of the industrial stairs violated OSHA standards, lacked a non-slip surface and that Jefferson Smurfit Corporation was negligent for allowing accumulations of paper pulp to accumulate on the stairs and in other areas of the mill in violation of OSHA standards.
Plaintiff repeatedly denied a loss of consciousness, although a co-worker testified that the plaintiff was unconscious for at least five minutes. The plaintiff claimed a mild traumatic brain injury, post-concussion syndrome, chronic headaches, cognitive deficits, short-term memory loss, right-sided hearing loss, and vestibular dysfunction based upon neuropsychological testing and a disputed abnormal SPECT Scan. Plaintiff also claimed cervical facet syndrome.
Defendants’ experts maintained that plaintiff had a normal C-T Scan, a normal MRI, that there was no recorded mention of memory deficit until four months post-accident, that plaintiff was never hospitalized, that his accident was unwitnessed, and that his neuropsychological findings were inconsistent and suggested malingering. Plaintiff’s physicians opined that he was permanently disabled from returning to his pre-injury employment as a pile driver. Plaintiff’s medical expenses were approximately $56,000.00. Plaintiff had earned an average of $20,000.00 per year in the last three (3) years before his accident. Plaintiff’s economist projected a loss of earning capacity in a range of approximately $250,000.00 to $1,200,000.00 depending on plaintiff’s residual earning capacity.
Prior to trial, plaintiffs settled with defendant, Jefferson Smurfit Corporation/Container Corporation of America for $400,000.00. The case proceeded to trial against defendant, Mobile Dredging. On the fifth day of trial, plaintiffs settled with defendant, Mobile Dredging & Pumping Company for an additional $495,000.00. Plaintiff’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier waived its entire lien of $98,347.00 and agreed to pay plaintiff $38,455.00 in commutation of future compensation benefits. The entire settlement package totaled $1,031,802.00.
Plaintiffs’ Expert Witnesses:
Daniel E. Weinstein, M.D., Director, Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, Philadelphia, PA; Dawn Rider-Foster, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital M.D., Philadelphia, PA; John E. . Gordon, Ph.D., neuropsychology, Philadelphia, PA; Alan Carr, D.O., Pain Management, Cherry Hill, NJ; Mark D’Esposito, M. D., Cognitive Neurology, Philadelphia, PA; Charles Intenzo, M.D. and Sung Kim, M.D., Philadelphia, PA (SPECT Scan – Nuclear Radiology); Erik W. Nielsen, M.D., Tiff in, OH (Hearing Loss and Vestibular Dysfunction); Gordon Moskowitz, Ph.D., Drexel Hill, PA (biomechanics); Peter Nesbitt, M.A., Malvern, PA (Vocational Rehabilitation); Stephen A. Estrin, Mahopac, NY (Construction Safety); and Andrew G. Verzilli, Ph.D., Kintnersville, PA (Economics).
Defendant’s Expert Witnesses:
Marc Manzione, M.D., Huntingdon Valley, PA (Orthopedics); David G. Cook, M.D., Philadelphia, PA (Neurology); Thomas Swirsky Sacchetti, Ph.D., Philadelphia, PA (Neuropsychology); Lawrence E. Thibault, Sc.D., Philadelphia, PA (Biomechanics); Jasen Walker, Ed.D., Valley Forge, PA (Vocational Rehabilitation); Jerome M. Staller, Ph.D., Philadelphia,” PA (Economics); and Joseph Sataloff, M.D. (Hearing Loss).
Robert J. Mongeluzzi and John T. Dooley of Daniels, Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Barrett, Ltd., Philadelphia, Pa.