Robert J. Mongeluzzi and David L. Kwass of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky reached a $1.95 million settlement late last week for their client, who was permanently disabled after a construction site accident.
On May 18, 1999, James Carey, a union plumber for 30 years, was working on the construction of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Philadelphia.
Construction company Duggan & Marcon was contracted to work on the hotel. The internal elevator at the hotel was closed and an external hoist was erected for workers’ use. Hoist passengers entered the building from windows about 5 feet above floor level. Duggan & Marcon built elevated risers below the windows to allow workers to enter and exit the hoist. A ramp led from the riser to the floor.
The day of the accident, Carey, employed by a company subcontracted by Duggan & Marcon, exited the makeshift elevator onto the riser. As he stepped from the riser onto the ramp, the ramp collapsed, and he fell to the floor.
Carey fractured his heel, an injury that required surgery. He was unable to bear weight on his heel until the fall of 1999. As Carey began to regain use of his foot, he began experiencing back pain and right knee pain, which led to a diagnosis of necrosis of the lateral femur in his right leg and a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee that required further surgery.
Since the accident, Carey has been unable to return to work.
During pretrial mediation, the plaintiffs, Carey, and his wife, presented expert testimony that stated Carey would no longer be able to work in plumbing, a field he had worked in since his early 20s.
Carey’s injuries, the expert witnesses said, left him unable to walk and stand for the 40 hours a week that such a job demands.
Economics expert witnesses for the plaintiffs contended that Carey’s loss in earning capacity exceeded $800,000.
Experts for the defendant, Duggan & Marcon, said that Carey would lose less than $250,000 and that he could return to work in a less physically demanding field.
Carey’s witnesses said his injuries were severe enough to render him permanently disabled and unable to return to a full-time position in any capacity.
“It was certainly a battle between our experts and their experts,” Mongeluzzi said. “Ours felt that he was not employable in any full-time job; theirs indicated that he was employable and could earn a wage that was equal to what he was making as a plumber.”
The ramp and riser were disposed of after the accident. A witness for the defendant said that the accident was not caused by improper construction or placement of the structure but by a defective cleat that supported the riser. Because the structure was destroyed, it was impossible to examine it and decide whether the witness’ assertion was valid, Mongeluzzi said.
Mongeluzzi believed that the ramp’s dismantling could have contributed to Duggan & Marcon’s agreeing to settle.
“If the plaintiff’s action happened as they said, why would the defendant destroy the evidence? That is like O.J. having a tape of the murder and then destroying the tape,” Mongeluzzi said.
Mark L. Parisi of White & Williams represented Duggan & Marcon. Parisi did not return a call seeking comment by press time yesterday.