$12,000,000 – Roofer Paralyzed After Fall

A roofer who was paralyzed from the neck down after a 40-foot fall will be paid $12 million to settle his suit against a general contractor that accused the firm of failing to provide any fall protection devices or a designated safety monitor.

According to court papers, Timothy Sheridan, 45, was a roofer working for Belcher Roofing Corp., which had been hired by Clemens Construction Co. to work on the renovations of a series of buildings in the Washington Square West neighborhood.

Sheridan had been on the job just a few days when he fell from the roof of a three-story building.

In the suit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Sheridan’s lawyers – Robert J. Mongeluzzi, Larry Bendesky, and V. Paul Bucci II of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, along with Daniel A. Schwarz and Stanley M. Schwarz of Schwarz & Schwarz – blamed the fall on the general contractor.

The suit alleged that Clemens had the “overall responsibility for job-site safety,” which included ensuring that all required and necessary fall protection was in place before allowing any roofing work to proceed.

In court papers, plaintiff’s lawyers said the deposition testimony of Clemens and Belcher workers had clearly established the general contractor’s liability.

The Clemens employee who worked as the superintendent of the project testified that he was aware that Clemens had the responsibility to ensure workplace safety, and that duty included ensuring that subcontractors complied with federal regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

But a Belcher foreman testified that he was never asked by Clemens to identify the fall protection being used for roofers on the job until after Sheridan’s fall.

“The evidence is clear that Clemens did nothing to determine what, if any, fall protection Belcher used on this project and Clemens certainly did nothing to ensure that fall protection was, in fact, being used,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote.

The plaintiff’s team said the testimony also showed that Clemens workers mistakenly believed that a Belcher worker was acting as the “safety monitor” on the job.

But that Belcher employee testified that he was unaware that he had been designated to serve as a safety monitor and that, prior to Sheridan’s fall, he didn’t even know what a safety monitor was.

Under OSHA regulations, a safety monitor must be trained to watch other roofers, must remain on the same level with all workers he is monitoring, and cannot work on roofing tasks, but instead must be completely devoted to the monitoring task.

Plaintiff’s lawyers said that Clemens employee Greg Santora, who worked as the field superintendent on the project, effectively conceded the company’s liability when he testified that if the company had failed to ensure that a safety monitor was in place, Clemens had not fulfilled its safety obligations.

Mongeluzzi said the case was ready to go to trial when both sides agreed to go to a mediation conducted by attorney Allan H. Gordon of Kolsby Gordon Robin Shore & Beza.

Bendesky said that if the case had gone to trial, the plaintiffs would have called four experts: Mona Yudkoff, a nurse who would have testified about Sheridan’s lifetime care needs; Guy W. Fried, a doctor who specializes in spinal cord injuries; David Bunin, an economist; and Stephen Estrin, a construction safety expert.

Clemens’ lawyer, Francis J. Deasey of Deasey Mahoney & Valentini, could not be reached for comment.

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