$2,100,000 – Settlement for Construction Worker Injured in 30-Foot Fall

A construction worker who broke his back, several ribs, and his left leg when he fell 30 feet off a landing has settled with the general contractor, the construction manager, and the manufacturer of the scissor lift he had exited just prior to the fall for $2.1 million in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

In Ferraro v. Turner Construction, according to the plaintiff’s settlement conference memorandum, 59-year-old plaintiff Ralph Ferraro fell while installing stairway stringers.

According to the plaintiff’s memorandum, Ferraro and two other workers, along with a 900-pound stringer, were hoisted on a scissor lift to a raised platform.

Ferraro exited the scissor lift and climbed onto the platform, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum. As Ferraro attempted to guide the stringer into place, the stringer shifted and pulled him off the landing.

He fell 30 feet onto the concrete below, fracturing his spine and five ribs, as well as shattering his left knee and ankle, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.

Defendant Perrotto Builders Ltd., the general contractor, had “exclusive control over construction means and methods at the project, including safety programs and safety supervision,” the plaintiff’s memorandum alleged.

Perrotto violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations by allowing three men and a 900-pound stringer on a scissor lift with a maximum occupancy of two people and a maximum workload of 800 pounds.

Also, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum, Ferraro was not wearing any fall protection and Perrotto claimed to be unaware that workers on the site were not “tying off.”

Defendant Turner Construction Co., the construction manager, was responsible for ensuring that all the contractors and subcontractors on the site complied with the project safety program, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.

Defendant Lift Inc., the manufacturer of the scissor lift, dropped the machine off but never provided any training on how to use it, violating the American National Standards Institute regulations, according to the plaintiff’s memorandum.

Perrotto, however, in its own settlement conference memorandum, argued that Ferraro was comparatively negligent for failing to wear fall protection.

Perrotto also argued in its memorandum that while Ferraro claimed there was no way for him to secure himself once outside the scissor lift, testimony by his co-workers contradicted this claim.

Turner, meanwhile, argued in its own settlement conference memorandum that while it was required to perform safety “walk-throughs” on the site, it did not have the same responsibilities to ensure safety that Perrotto had.

As for the delivery of the scissor lift, both Perrotto and Lift argued in their settlement conference memorandums that safety training was offered but that members of Riegel Engineering Inc., Ferraro’s employer, declined the training.

Perrotto joined Riegel as a defendant in the case, alleging in its memorandum that, in addition to safety training, Lift also offered Riegel optional safety harnesses, which Riegel also declined.

The plaintiff’s memorandum said Ferraro’s “most problematic” injuries were those to his leg, which included a comminuted left tibial plateau fracture in his left knee, an ACL injury, and a left talus fracture in his ankle.

“Due to the positioning of Ralph’s fractures, surgical intervention was not possible,” the plaintiff’s memorandum said. “Instead, Ralph’s injuries have been treated the last four years through rehabilitation and injections.”

According to the plaintiff’s memorandum, Dr. Guy Fried, Ferraro’s treating physiatrist, opined that Ferraro will require lifetime medical care and live-in assistance.

Perrotto alleged in its own memorandum, however, that Ferraro largely recovered from his injuries.

According to the plaintiff’s memorandum, plaintiffs vocational expert Mark Lukas opined that Ferraro would never be able to work again.

Plaintiffs economic expert David Hopkins estimated Ferraro’s lost earnings capacity at between $1.1 million and $1.7 million, and life care expert Mona Yudkoff estimated Ferraro’s future medical expenses at between $1.5 million and $1.6 million.

According to Ferraro’s attorney, Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky in Philadelphia, his client, Perrotto, Turner, and Lift agreed to settle for a total of $2.1 million.

According to Andrew R. Duffy of Saltz Mongeluzzi, who also represented Ferraro, Lift and Turner settled for $600,000 and $500,000, respectively, prior to trial.

Perrotto settled for $1 million shortly after openings at trial December 3, according to Duffy.

Duffy and Mongeluzzi said they were happy with the result.

Perrotto’s attorney, Francis J. Deasey of Deasey, Mahoney, Valentini & North in Philadelphia, said he felt the settlement was reasonable.

Following the settlement, the trial, before Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Frederica A. Massiah-Jackson, proceeded to Phase II, during which Perrotto attempted to recover under the indemnification clause in its contract with Riegel.

During Phase II of the trial, according to Deasey, Mongeluzzi was called to the stand as Perrotto’s first witness to testify as to his reasons for agreeing to settle the case.

Mongeluzzi told The Legal it was the first time he had ever taken the stand as a witness at a trial.

According to Deasey, he and his co-counsel, Jane North of Deasey Mahoney, also called Turner’s attorney, Joseph Gibley of Gibley and McWilliams in Media, Pa., to the stand to testify that the settlement amount was reasonable.

In addition, Deasey and North retained Ferraro’s liability expert, Richard D. Hislop, and called him to the stand to discuss the theories of liability in the case.

Ultimately, according to Deasey, the jury awarded Perrotto about $1.2 million, comprising the settlement amount it paid to Ferraro as well as attorney fees.

Riegel’s attorney, Jonathan D. Herbst of Margolis Edelstein in Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment at press time.

Both Gibley and Lift’s attorney, Joseph M. DeMarco of March, Hurwitz & DeMarco in Media, also could not be reached.

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