On the eve of jury selection, a construction worker injured after he fell from a crane at a worksite has settled his suit with the project’s general contractor for $3 million.
The case settled Friday. Jury selection was scheduled to begin in the State Superior Law Division in Camden County on Monday. The case is Dunn v. Belbold Contracting.
Robert Mongeluzzi and John Dooley of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky represented the plaintiff, Jack Dunn.
In November 1997, Dunn, a 40-year-old dock builder, was working at a site on Route 42 in New Jersey. Dunn was an employee of Marmer Bros., a company subcontracted by Belbold Contracting to work on the site.
According to Mongeluzzi, on the day of the accident, a crane was partially supporting a 6-ton hammer that was being used to pound metal pipes into the ground. A hook on the crane came undone, and Dunn was instructed by his foreman to go up the leads of the steel frame that helps hold the hammer in place. A ladder runs alongside the steel frame, and Dunn climbed up the ladder to make the repair. After he fixed the hook, he began his descent, but as he grabbed onto the ladder, a rung broke and he fell 20 feet, hit part of the steel frame, and fell an additional 20 feet into water.
Dunn’s injuries included a lacerated liver and spleen, nine broken ribs, a torn left rotator cuff, a herniated disk, and fusions of his lower back, midback, and neck. Mongeluzzi said Dunn tried to return to work after the accident but was unable to do so because his injuries caused him chronic pain.
Dooley, himself a former dock builder, played an integral part in the case, Mongeluzzi said.
“It was a huge advantage to have working with me a lawyer who was actually a dock builder and who had . . . worked on the very type of equipment that Jack Dunn got hurt on,” Mongeluzzi said.
Mongeluzzi said that the case proceeded on two theories of liability – the condition of the ladder and the alleged failure to implement appropriate safety procedures at the worksite.
The best proof that the ladder was in bad shape, Mongeluzzi claimed, came from the defendant. Belbold Contracting had taken photographs of the work site’s progress, a customary procedure. “We were able to take the defendant’s own photographs and show that the ladder was always in horrible shape,” Mongeluzzi said.
Mongeluzzi also asserted that a safety line should have been in place at the time of Dunn’s accident. The system would require a worker to wear a harness attached to the line to prevent falls. Mongeluzzi claimed that the defendant’s own evidence again worked against it on this theory.
Mongeluzzi said that the defendant blamed Dunn’s employer, Marmer Bros. But, Mongeluzzi said, he was able to counter that argument because Belbold had a federal contract to work on Route 42 and, therefore, fell under federal highway provisions. And under these provisions, Mongeluzzi said, contractors, are responsible for the safety of subcontractors’ employees.
Dooley said he thought the case settled because, during settlement negotiations, the mediator was able to convince both parties that the value of the case was $3 million.
Sean X. Kelly of New Jersey’s Marks O’Neill O’Brien & Courtney represented Belbold Contracting but could not be reached for comment by press time.