$5,900,000 – Roofer in Construction Accident

A roofer who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell 30 feet to a cement floor due to an unlabeled hole on a factory roof will be paid $5.9 million in a partial settlement of his suit against the building’s owner and a general contractor.

According to court papers, doctors had to remove the frontal portions of Justin Healy’s skull to relieve the pressure from the swelling of his brain.

Healy can no longer verbally communicate, and while he can write responses to questions or gesture his agreement with a thumbs up, he requires care to assist in the most basic functions of living.

Healy’s lawyers, Larry Bendesky and Brian E. Fritz of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, said Healy lives in a convalescent facility and will need care for the rest of his life.

The settlement was struck with the building owner and a general contractor that was overseeing the roofing job, but Healy continues to have claims against several other defendants, including another roofing company that is allegedly responsible for leaving the roof in a dangerous condition.

The December 2003 accident occurred when Healy was working at a site that was being converted into the new headquarters for Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co.

Sweetwater Construction was the general contractor on the job, and Healy’s employer, Eagle Roofing Co., was hired by Sweetwater as the roofing subcontractor.

The roof was comprised of a cement deck that was covered with two layers of rubberized roofing material. Eagle was to install a new roof over approximately 500,000 square feet of the structure.

To do the job, Eagle’s workers had to remove the rubberized roofing layers before installing the new roof on top of the decking.

As Healy and several co-workers were cutting away portions of the roof, they encountered a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of plywood that was not secured to the decking.

When Healy removed the plywood, it revealed a hole, and he fell 30 feet to the cement floor.

According to the suit, federal safety standards require that such hole covers be clearly marked and securely anchored to the decking. But the suit alleged that the hole cover Healy encountered was neither marked nor secured.

Sweetwater’s project manager testified that he was aware of the safety requirements and that he had seen the plywood coverings in the roof while looking up from the interior. He testified that he was concerned before the accident because the plywood could be compromised and “allow someone to fall through” to the floor below.

But the suit alleged that, despite that concern, Sweetwater did nothing to ascertain whether the plywood was properly secured and marked on the roof side or that fall protection was used when roofers would be working around such hazards.

The suit also alleged that Frankford Candy and its subsidiary, Frankford Realty, were also obligated to ensure that all work performed within their portion of the building complied with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations, including OSHA regulations.

At a deposition, a Frankford corporate designee conceded that the company did nothing to ensure OSHA compliance, but instead had looked to Sweetwater and the general contractor, to provide for safety.

Frankford’s lawyer, Edward C. Mintzer Jr. of Rawle & Henderson, declined to comment on the settlement because the litigation is continuing against other defendants including one that Mintzer represents.

Sweetwater’s lawyer, Patrick C. Lamb of Marks O’Neill O’Brien & Courtney, could not be reached for comment.

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