A New York appellate division judge has reinstated a USD 3million injury award to Rafael Lopez after a successful argument by his Brooklyn personal injury attorney. In the ruling, the judge found New York City Environment Protection Department liable for disregarding state labor laws.
Background to the Case
In 2005, 35 year old Rafael worked in a construction site in New town Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Brooklyn. At the site, he was mainly involved in placing rebars on the roof of the building under construction. On 23rd September, while trying to help a colleague dislodge a stuck rebar, he fell on his back and was pierced by a by an uncapped vertical rebar. His injuries were very serious and he required multiple surgeries including spinal fusion surgery. He also had to undergo numerous physical therapy sessions.
With the help of a Brooklyn personal injury attorney, Rafael sued New York and the Environmental Protection Department as the construction site is in a New york city plant but under the management of the Environmental Protection Department. According to Rafael’s Brooklyn personal injury attorney, his injuries were as a direct result of the city failing to keep the site safe and free from sharp objects as required by section 241(6) of the labor laws.
In 2010, the Kings county jury ruled in Rafael’s favor and awarded him damages for pain and suffering amounting to USD 5 million which included a USD 3 million in future damages. The trial judge lowered this amount of future damages to USD
The city which was the defendant in the case consistently denied liability and argued that the rebar(steel reinforcements) is not an important part of work in the construction site’. This led them to move for an appeal and new trial. The appeals judge was in agreement with the original judgment on issue of liability. He was also comfortable with the USD 2million awarded for previous pain and suffering as it did not go beyond reasonable compensation. He also went ahead to reinstate the original award of USD 3 million for all future pain &suffering
What Guided the Judge’s Decision?
According to the ruling, it is the duty of employers to provide protection to the safety, lives and health of all its employees especially in excavation, construction and demolition works. The judge also relied heavily on the industrial code for New York which requires employers to ensure their working areas are free from clutter and sharp objects. In the event the working area does not conform to the industrial code, the employer will be liable.
Damages were also awarded as Rafael’s injury lawyer was able to prove to the court that his client was pierced by the eight inch unprotected rebar which resulted in lots of pain and profusely bleeding while still on site. In addition, his injuries would probably result in long term health care needs.
Not only did the judge uphold the liability and reinstate the original award given by the jury for future pain &suffering, Rafael was also awarded with past and future income compensation & past & future medical expenses. In total Lopez received USD 6.7 million.