Settlement in the case of a 62 year old electrician’s helper who died after falling from loose planking at a height of 22 feet in a boiler room at an apartment complex.

As a result of the fall the worker sustained massive skull injuries and there was no evidence that he experienced pain and suffering. In addition, the widow received nearly $150,000 in workers compensation death benefits for which the workers compensation carrier waived its lien as a condition of the settlement.

Michael Lizzi, who handled the action in New York, brought suit on behalf of the estate pursuant to various provisions of the New York Labor Law including section 240(1) commonly known as the “Scaffold Law.” The planks that the electrician’s helper worked on were unsecured and were resting on pipes that fed into the boiler system. The helper did not have a fall arrest system. The helper was installing additional and replacement pipe conduits for a new boiler system when the fatal accident occurred.

There were no witnesses to the helpers fall so it was unknown what the helper was doing immediately before he fell. The owner of the property contended that the helper should have used a scissor lift, which was readily available in the boiler room, to perform his work and had not, instead choosing to climb on one of the planks resting on the piping.

Plaintiff’s counsel countered that the general contractor had specifically instructed the helper to use the planking as had others in the course of the project, a point that was hotly contested during the course of the litigation. Factoring the worker’s compensation lien waiver to the the widow and administrator of $100,000 (representing 2/3 of the gross $150,000 lien)

The total value of the settlement totaled $400,000.

The Scaffold Law ensures that general contractors and building owners provide a safe working environment to the workers on their work site or property. Insurance companies and construction advocates have been working and lobbying hard to undermine the protections of this law. Trial lawyers continue to vigorously oppose these efforts.