On Sept. 22, 2004, plaintiff David Nowak, a 35-year-old pipefitter, was operating a JLG, stick boom aerial lift at the KVP Warehouse Construction Project, in Reading. Nowak had positioned the lift near an elevated I-beam to perform welding.
As he slowly elevated himself in the work basket, he inadvertently touched the drive/steer controller, causing the lift to bolt upward. After the lift raised up toward the horizontal I-beam, Nowak was then pinned between the beam – with his back against it – and the control panel of the lift, which was lodged into his chest. With his abdomen pressed hard against the control panel and the controller pressed full-forward, the lift rammed into Nowak’s midsection repeatedly, pushing his back into the I-beam, until his foreman finally rescued him by hitting the emergency stop on the machine’s ground controls. He sustained multiple severe injuries.
Nowak sued manufacturer JLG Industries Inc., as well as the company that leased and serviced the lift, United Rentals North America Inc. alleging design and manufacturing defects, as well as poor maintenance and training.
Abdomen; colon; colostomy; deep vein thrombosis; fistula; fracture, L3; fracture, L5; loss of consortium Nowak was hospitalized from Sept. 22 to Nov. 3 at Lehigh Valley Hospital. He was kept in a medically induced coma. He was diagnosed with burst fractures at L3 and L4 along with a major colon injury. He also sustained a deep vein thrombosis in his right arm and ventilator-dependent respiratory failure. While he was hospitalized, Nowak underwent an exploratory laparotomy with diverting colostomy and bag insertion, and seven other surgical procedures. At discharge, he could ambulate only with assistance. Nowak was readmitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital in June 2005 for additional abdominal surgery because his fistula had become infected. He then developed another infection of the abdominal wall mass in June 2006, which eventually required surgery in February 2007. That procedure included the removal of Nowak’s hernia sac.
In June 2007, Nowak went to the Cleveland Clinic for a second opinion. The surgeons there recommended conservative, symptomatic management of the recurrent fistula infections. Plaintiff’s counsel asserted that Nowak has constant pain in his midsection along with impaired bowel and bladder function. Counsel contended that Nowak also suffered an embarrassing episode where his colostomy bag exploded in public. Nowak was unable to work with the injuries and that forced his wife to return to work to provide for their family. Asserting Nowak’s condition was chronic and permanent, plaintiffs counsel sought an unspecified amount for his pain and suffering.
RESULT The parties agreed to a $4.2 million settlement.
INSURER(S) Old Republic Insurance Co.for United Rentals
Donald E.Jennings, Ed.D., life care planning, Bala Cynwyd, PA
Timothy Joganich, M.S., CHFP, human factors – see also technical-engineeringergonomics, Penns Park, PA
Douglas Moreland, M.D., neurosurgery, Williamsville,NY
Rexford L.Thomas Jr., Ph.D., M.D., FACS, general surgery, West Seneca, NY
Andrew C. Verzilli, M.B.A., economics, Landsdale,PA
Andrew G. Verzilli, Ph.D., economics, Landsdale,PA
Mona Goldman Yudkoff, R.N., M.P.H., C.R.R.N., life care planning, Bala Cynwyd, PA Kenneth J.Zimmer. P.E., aerial lifts, Fond du Lac,WI
DEFENSE EXPERT(S) Barris J. Evulich, PE, aerial lifts, Kingsburg, CA David Pope, P.E., metallurgy, Philadelphia, PA
EDITOR’S NOTE This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls