Philadelphia Jury Hands Up $15.5M to Worker Burned by Electric Shock

Defendant Vito Braccia Construction LLC could have avoided the Oct. 28 verdict if it had agreed to the plaintiff’s earlier demand to be compensated at the company’s $2 million insurance policy limit, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky.

A construction contractor involved in an apartment development project is on the hook for a $15.5 million verdict to a member of a tree-removal crew who sustained electrical burns while on the job.

And the defendant, Vito Braccia Construction LLC, could have avoided the Oct. 28 verdict, according to plaintiff attorneys at Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky. They said the defendant should have agreed to tender the company’s $2 million insurance policy limit.

“They went from a $250,000 offer and then moved incrementally up and ultimately ended up offering their full policy limits, but no fact changed,” said Robert Mongeluzzi, a partner at Saltz Mongeluzzi. He claimed that the company only offered to pay the full policy amount shortly before the jury was selected and after the plaintiff’s deadline had expired.

Vito Braccia Construction, represented by Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers, was the only one of numerous defendants named in the suit to proceed to trial before Judge Angelo Foglietta of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Susan Engle of Mintzer Sarowitz, representing Vito Braccia Construction, declined to comment.

Now, Mongeluzzi alleged that the conduct established that the defendant’s insurance carrier acted in bad faith and intends to bring a claim over its low settlement offer to show that “we mean what we say, and insurance carriers should take that seriously or proceed at their peril.”

‘Resonated With the Jury’

An August order from Judge Karen Shreeves-Johns of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas dismissed with prejudice claims and cross-claims against seven defendants in the case and marked as settled actions against six more defendants.

Among the settling defendants was Altino Construction LLC, a company with the same owner as Vito Braccia Construction. However, the two related defendants approached resolution differently because they were separate entities operating under different insurers, according to Saltz Mongeluzzi’s Andrew Duffy.

Charles Adams Jr. of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer represented Altino and did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the parties’ pretrial memos, plaintiff Brian Feldman suffered electrical burn injuries when he walked next to a crane that inadvertently came into contact with power lines. Feldman claimed the defendant directed workers to operate dangerously close to the power line to remove a tree that was not originally slated for removal.

Feldman said he suffered severe burns across his body that left him with long-term scarring, pain and difficulty breathing due to the accident.

In its pretrial memo, Vito Braccia Construction said the defendant had not been onsite when the tree removal contractor began working at the spot of the accident and that the defendant relied on the contractor to recognize and mitigate dangers associated with the tree removal.

Mongoluzzi said that at trial, he and his co-counsel stressed the importance of taking safety precautions on construction sites.

“That theme of ‘safety first’ is something that resonated with the jury and was a prime ingredient of this verdict,” he said.

In addition to the $15.5 million verdict, Duffy said delay damages are $872,000. David Kwass, David Langsam and Aidan Carickhoff were also co-counsel on the case, captioned Feldman v. SEPTA.

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