Thursday, November 19, 2009

$3.9 Million Settlement at Trial on Behalf of Two Ironworkers Injured at a Construction Site.


On October 11, 2006, two union ironworkers were severely injured while working at the Broad Street Station Restoration Project in Newark, New Jersey. The project was owned by New Jersey Transit, which had hired a general contractor, Conti Enterprises, Inc. of South Plainfield, New Jersey. Conti had full responsibility for managing the project, both by contract and safety regulations.

The ironworkers were working for a subcontractor on the project, Railroad Construction Co., Inc. of Paterson, New Jersey. On the date in question, they were operating a scissors manlift on a precast concrete platform, which would eventually be used by train passengers when the station was fully operational. At about 2:30 am, on the late shift, they were "bolting up" a canopy at the station, which would be used by train passengers for protection from the elements.

Suddenly, as they were traveling on the motorized scissors lift across the platform, one of the precast planks flipped onto the railroad tracks, catapulting the lift and both workers to the tracks below, causing traumatic bodily injuries. As it developed, the precast platform had not been properly secured by the general contractor, Conti, who had supervisory and contractual responsibility for doing so, and responsibility for alerting its subcontractors of any such dangers.

One ironworker sustained a lower back injury requiring surgical fusion with pedicle screw instrumentation, which required a bone graft at L5-S1. He also fractured his dominant right hand, which required two surgeries and pinning due to a malunion. He also had an open fracture of his left knee, and lost approximately one-third of his left patella, as a result of an open reduction and extensor mechanism repair, with associated scarring. A vocational/economic expert that his past and future net wage loss would amount to between $1.5 and $1.9 million.

The second ironworker sustained ten fractured ribs with painful chest wall syndrome, a concussion, traumatic structural damage in the right inner ear which required two surgeries and resulted in vestibular dysfunction with dizziness and loss of balance, and a profound hearing loss in the same ear, which required a hearing aid. Vocational testimony was presented that this disability forced him to give up a 22 year career as an ironworker and take other jobs in non-union positions that did not pay as well. A vocational expert asserted that he would lose between $1.35 and $1.6 million in past and future wages, by virtue of the physical limitations that prevented him from continuing as union steel worker.

John Ratkowitz and Amos Gern tried the case between November 3 and November 19, 2009. The first ironworker settled his case after one week of trial, on November 13, for $2.9 million. The claims of the second ironworker went to verdict on November 19, before a jury which returned a gross award of $494,138, reduced by 34% for comparative negligence. However, Starr Gern was able to negotiate a high-low settlement of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 prior to the verdict. As a result, the second ironworker will receive a settlement of $1,000,000 in spite of the jury verdict, and all potential appeals were waived.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Settlement at trial of over $1.4 Million in Orthopedic Malpractice Case on behalf of Livingston, New Jersey resident following Jury Selection.


The plaintiff injured his left elbow when he fell after his scooter struck a hole in a residential street. The following day, he came under the care of the defendant, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, who performed surgery. Following the surgery, the plaintiff was casted. Approximately six weeks later, when the cast was removed, the plaintiff had little range of motion in the left elbow joint. Within weeks, the joint completely froze. After visiting several orthopedic surgeons in New York City for second opinions, the plaintiff was advised that he required major reconstructive surgery because his left elbow fractures healed in a place higher than their original location.

Suit was filed against the defendant physician and two entities who had responsibilities related to maintaining the street where the accident occurred. The case was litigate for three years and it involved complex issues of causation and apportionment of responsibility.

The plaintiff's medical expert opined that the elbow fractures healed in the wrong position because they were pinned in the wrong place by the defendant during the surgery. The expert further opined that if the defendant had performed the surgery appropriately, the plaintiff would have been left with a functioning pain-free left elbow, with minimal loss of motion. The defendants argued that the fractures were pinned correctly, but drifted following the removal of the surgical pins six weeks later.

Despite undergoing multiple surgeries to correct the malaligned joint, the plaintiff is left with a 30% functioning left elbow.

Partners John Ratkowitz (Click Here for Bio) and Amos Gern settled the case following jury selection prior to opening arguments.

Click here to email John Ratkowitz