$2,000,000 – Crushed Finger in On-the-Job Accident

The attorneys for a man who became fully disabled from employment after sustaining a crushed middle finger on his dominant hand in an on-the-job accident on Friday secured a $2.025 million settlement in the middle of trial before a jury of 12 in Philadelphia Common Please Court Judge Victor DiNubile’s court.

The plaintiff’s lawyers, E. Douglas DiSandro of Dashevsky Horwitz DiSadro Kuhn Dempsey & Novello and Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, said the third defendant in the case, which was sued on a negligence theory, came to an agreement on the fifth day of a trial, while the jurors were watching expert testimony on videotape.

“We had completed the plaintiff’s case, with the exception of the testimony of the wife and daughter of the plaintiff,” DiSandro said.

Plaintiffs had already reached settlement with the two other defendants – a product manufacturer and an installer – before opening statements in the case last Monday. They were sued on product liability theories on the basis of the machinery involved lacking needed safety devices.

Roy J. Howie and his employer Gray’s Trucking, the negligence defendants, agreed to pay $1.3 million, while the products liability defendants agreed to pay a total of $725,000 with Advance Lifts Inc., the manufacturer, providing $500,000 and installer Material Handling Equipment Co. adding $225,000.

Gray’s Trucking and Howie had offered only $150,000 prior to trial, DiSandro said.

DiNubile was said to have been “very active” in encouraging the settlement. He met with the lawyers for both sides while the videotaped expert testimony played, DiSandro recalled.

The lawsuit stemmed from a March 1993 incident involving the plaintiff, Richard Techtmann, a postal worker at the Bristol Post Office in Bucks County. Techtmann, 35, was assisting Howie, a truck driver, in unloading a Gray’s truck, using a hydraulic lift.

A bridge plate used in unloading the truck had dipped below the level of the bed of the Gray’s truck, and Techtmann was using his hands to pull it back. Howie did not see what Techtmann was doing and turned the hydraulic lift on without looking to see if the postal worker was clear of the lift.

Techtmann’s middle finger on his dominant right hand was crushed, DiSandro said.

Damages flowing from the injury include reflex sympathetic dystrophy, including reflex sympathetic dystrophy, brachial plexus neuralgia, and chronic pain syndrome, he said. He has been diagnosed as totally disabled from any type of employment.

DiSandro handled the damage case for Techtmann, while Mongeluzzi piloted the liability case. The main liability issue was whether an audible beeper to alert persons nearby that the lift was operating would have averted the accident. Defendants also “strenuously contested” the causation of Techtmann’s disability, DiSandro said.

The main liability issue was whether an audible beeper to alert persons nearby that the lift was operating would have averted the accident. Defendants also “strenuously contested” the causation of Techtmann’s disability, DiSandro said.

Defendants argued that a crushed fingertip could not have led to the amount of neurological damage suffered by Techtmann, DiSandro recalled. “They pointed to our client’s doctors” as a possible cause for the more widespread neurological damage, he said. The plaintiff’s attorneys said they were ready to accept the offer from the defense side when they had secured their client’s ability to provide for his three children’s college the plaintiff,” DiSandro said.

“They pointed to our client’s doctors” as a possible cause for the more widespread neurological damage, he said.

The plaintiff’s attorneys said they were ready to accept the offer from the defense side when they had secured their client’s ability to provide for his three children’s college expenses and for other family members, DiSandro said.

The turning point came when the plaintiffs were able to present convincing testimony on damages, according to DiSandro.

One of the main problems was to convince people that a crushed finger could be as debilitating as it was to Techtmann, he said.

“We called our client’s brother as a damage witness, and he related an incident that showed how much pain his brother was suffering, and it affected a number of people in the courtroom,” DiSandro recalled.

DiSandro said he expected a short case from the defense, so the trial was nearly over by the time the settlement offer was accepted.

Attorney for Gray’s Trucking was Marc Zingarini of the Margolis Edelstein firm.

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