The man was hired to work on the Whitestone Bridge as an iron worker. On the day that he was injured, a 1 ½ slab of fiberglass was being moved. The slab was being transported by a lift system which used suction cups. These suction cups required a certain amount of time to be fully charged before use, which was disrupted the day before when a blackout occurred. Halfway through the move, the suction cups lost power and the slab fell 30 feet to the ground below.
The plaintiff attempted to run, but he was unable to get out of the way. The fiberglass struck him and knocked him unconscious. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with injuries to his back, neck, pelvis, shoulders, and brain. Doctors performed emergency surgery to repair as much damage as they could.
The plaintiff sued the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the manufacturer and distributor of the suction cup device, and the construction company. He alleged that labor laws were broken and that there was a defect in the design of the lift system.
He further claimed that his injuries are so severe that he will be permanently unable to return to work.
A Trial Cut Short
The case went to trial, but halfway through the trial, both sides reached an agreement. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority paid $10.9 million, the manufacturer $2 million, the distribution company $385,000, the project designer $200,000, and the construction company $1.5 million.
Whenever a party designs, manufactures, and distributes a product, they can be held liable for any injuries that the product causes. Product liability complaints have been filed over various products, including motor vehicles, household products, construction machinery, office products, and even prescription drugs.
Plaintiffs typically allege one of three things:
- That there is a defect in the design of the product that makes it dangerous and that defect caused serious injuries.
- That there is a defect in the way a product has been manufactured which resulted in serious injuries.
- That there was a Breach Of Warranty. This means that the manufacturer’s warranty, which indicates that a product will behave in a certain way, was wrong or that vital information was left out.
The plaintiff, in this case, was able to pursue action against the manufacturer and distributor of the suction cup lift mechanism because it failed to work and this failure resulted in his injuries.
The Rights Of Construction Workers
Construction workers in New York who have been injured typically believe that workers’ compensation will cover the cost of their medical care.
What they aren’t aware of is that nearly 50% of all workers’ compensation claims are denied and the worker is left to fend for themselves. Even if the employee’s claim is approved, the compensation they receive is likely not enough to cover all of their losses.
Construction workers’ have the right to pursue legal action against those whose negligence resulted in their accident. Sadly, the pressures of time and money lead many companies, contractors, sub-contractors, and managers to cut corners, which means they don’t enforce the safety standards that OSHA has enacted.
OSHA safety standards address a number of issues, including:
- the construction and use of scaffolding
- the use of hard hats on the job site
- safety equipment
- certification for the use heavy machinery like cranes
In addition to facing possible civil lawsuits, any party who fails to enforce these safety standards may be subject to investigation and face fines.