$1,100,000 – Welder Falls from 40 Feet with Serious Injuries

A welder who suffered serious injuries during a 40-foot fall off the outside of a cement kiln in Pittsburgh reached a $1.125 million settlement with the site’s owner during a daylong mediation session late last week.

The plaintiff, Brian Menzia, 25; of Milwaukee, Wis., was represented by Robert Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky. Mongeluzzi said the case was rooted in a March 1993 incident in which Menzia’ s company, Weld Power, was subcontracted to repair a 500-foot long cement kiln for the site owner and case defendant Kosmo Cement Co.

According to Mongeluzzi, Menzia and a co-worker used a 20-foot ladder that was placed on a catwalk that was already 20 feet off the ground to ascend to the outside top of the kiln. The ladder did not reach the top of the cylindrical kiln, leaving the welders to walk the slope to the top without any safety devices to aid their climb. Menzia’s partner reached the top, where a ring was waiting to fasten in a safety belt for fall protection. But Mongeluzzi said his client was not as fortunate.

As he was walking between the ladder and the safety ring, Menzia slipped and fell 40 feet to the ground, fracturing his skull, left hip, and several vertebrae. His internal investigation into the accident and found grease and oil all over the walkways and the catwalk on site and determined that that played a significant role in the accident. Kosmo cleaned up the oil spillage after the accident, he said.

There were three disputed facts in the case, Mongeluzzi said. The plaintiff said Menzia never made it to the top of the kiln while the defense said he did. The defense also said when he reached the top, Menzia neglected to fasten his safety belt into the ring. The two sides also disagreed over the memory-loss issue.

Kosmo’s Pittsburgh-based attorney, Jeffrey Olszewski of Tighe Evan Ehrman Schenk & Paras, was in court yesterday and unavailable for comment. After enduring about $142,000 in medical treatment, Menzia has gone back to work handling the books for Weld Power’s business successors, but Mongeluzzi said he could have stood to make much more money as a welder with his colleagues. The defense, though, argued that he could earn a salary equivalent to what he had earned before.

The two sides met all day Thursday in front of David Murphy, a retired Allegheny County judge who now has his own mediation company. The two sides reached the $l.l25 million agreement, and a $100,000 workers’ compensation lien was waived.

“It would have been really hotly contested based on those two accident facts and the memory loss,” Mongeluzzi said. “So when you factor that in, I think this was a good number for both sides.”

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