Construction Accident Worker Falls Through Hole In Floor Brain Damage, Pelvic Fractures, And Severe Hand Injury

VERDICT: $8,200,985. Civetta settled for $2,300,000 during trial. The $8,200,985 award was offset by that amount (6/0). Liability: Turner and 450 Lexington 90%; John Civetta & Sons 10% negligent. Deft. Regional was granted dismissal during the trial- as stipulated by the parties.

Breakdown: $250,000 for past medical expenses; $55,000 for past lost earnings; $500,000 for past pain and suffering; $4,395,985 for future lost earnings; $3,000,000 for future pain and suffering. Jury: 3 male, 3 female. Post-trial motions were denied in October 1993.
XI/10-1 Construction Accident Worker Falls Through Hole In Floor Brain Damage, Pelvic Fractures, And Severe Hand Injury

Stephen Cooke v. 450 Lexington Ave. Ventures and Turner Construction Corp. v. John Civetta & Sons, Inc. (Third-party Deft.) 2931/90 6-week trial Verdict 5/13/93 Post-trial decision 10/93 Judge Barry Salman, Bronx Supreme

Pltf. Atty: Harvey Weitz of Schneider, Kleinick & Weitz, Manhattan

Deft. Atty: Joseph P. Carfora of Callahan, Schepp, Yuhas, Adams & Carfora, Manhattan, for Turner and 450 Lexington Ave.; Dennis E. Krolian of Alan I. Lamer, Manhattan, for John Civetta & Sons; William D. Cahill of McMahon, Martine & Gallagher, Manhattan, for Regional Scaffolding

Pltf., a 24-year-old honors student at the University of Hartford, was severely injured when he fell 20 feet from a scaffold on 1/12/90, while employed during his Christmas break as a part-time laborer at a construction site owned by Deft. 450 Lexington Ave. (90% liable). The general contractor- was Deft. Turner Construction (90% . liable). Pltf.’s father was employed as a superintendent for Third-party Deft. John Civetta & Sons (10% liable). Pltf. claimed that his father told him to clear away a pile of construction debris which was lying on a 4 by 8 foot piece of plywood. The construction site was located next to Grand Central Station. Pltf. claimed that as he was removing the debris, he stepped into a hole and fell 20 feet to the Grand Central railroad tracks. The hole had originally been covered by secured plywood, planking, and a metal barricade by another contractor, Regional Scaffolding (dismissed during trial). Pitt established at trial that 2 weeks before the accident, Deft. Turner Construction ordered the barricade removed and replaced with a movable wooden shed, called “the doghouse.” Eyewitnesses testified that the doghouse was several feet away from the hole at the time of the accident. An independent eyewitness testified that he observed Pltf. and his father remove the plywood covering the hole and that the father subsequently bumped into his son, causing him to fall through the hole.

Brain damage resulting in speech and cognitive deficits, personality changes, memory loss, visual acuity problems, and decreased academic capabilities; fractured pelvis; multiple hand fractures to left ( nondominant) hand with nerve entrapment resulting in clawed hand. Pltf. was comatose for 2 weeks after the accident. He returned to school, but his grades deteriorated. Pltf., an honors student prior to the accident, became a C student. Friends testified that Pltf.’s personality changed from very upbeat to depressed. Demonstrative evidence: photographs of accident scene; Pltf.’s medical charts. Offer: $450,000; demand: $2,750, 000; amount asked of jury: $12,000,000. Jury deliberation: 4 hours. Carriers: Liberty Mutual for Turner and 450 Lexington; AIG for Civetta. Pltf. Experts: Marlin White, vocational rehabilitation, Manhattan; Dr. Alvin Mickens, economist, Manhattan; Dr. Todd Feinberg, , neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan; Dr. Jonathan Korn, orth. surg., Manhattan. There was no expert testimony for Deft.


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