Articles Posted in Construction Accidents

Pretty proud of this win in the Appellate Division Third Department.

A very fine Central New York personal injury lawyer hired us to take an appeal from a Labor Law 240 (“scaffold law”) motion he had lost. The case is called Griffin v AVA Realty Ithaca, LLC.

The fact that a great Syracuse personal injury lawyer would choose to have us fight an appeal for him is in itself something we are proud of.  Winning the appeal was of course the icing on the cake.

Look at this kid! Fernando Vanegas, 19 years old. Same age as my son Sebastian, who just went off to college.  Full of life, of hopes, of dreams, just like Sebastian. Fernando came to Queens, New York from Ecuador only a year ago to reunite with his parents whom he had not seen in 15 years. As an immigrant with almost no English, the best job he could land was in the construction industry. Dangerous work. He would come home at night and tell his parents how frightening his work was; close calls involving retaining walls almost falling on him. Then, last Thursday, he did not come home. A retaining wall collapsed, burying him and two other workers in a heap of cinder blocks. He died.

He should not have died. The warning signs were all there.  The site should have been shut down. Several safety violations had recently been reported, including that the retaining wall was not stable.  The City failed to shut down the work.

Fernando was a canary in a coal mine. Now of course the site is shut down.  Now of course, at least for a while, the City will err on the side of caution, and shut down similar sites.  Shame on his employer, and shame on the City of New York inspectors, for allowing him to die under such conditions, without heeding such obvious warning signs of danger.

craneBack in 2008 a crane collapse in New York City made headline news. The huge tower crane had plummeted from an impressive height in a densely populated area of the city, causing unprecedented human and property destruction.  The case was of special interest to me as a Central New York construction accident lawyer.  We don’t usually have cranes that big up here, but the dangers and risks of construction work are similar.

When something like that happens, you know someone was careless or negligent. A crane does not collapse without a reason. Someone failed to build it right, or to maintain it, or to use it properly. The only real question is who.

Usually in a case like this, several possible culprits point fingers at each other (the manufacturer, the maintenance service company, the operator, etc.). This case was no exception. The owner of the crane pointed toward the crane operator for hoisting a load that “was too heavy”. The operator – who was one of the injured plaintiffs — blamed the crane owner for repairing the crane with a defective bearing he knew or should have known would eventually fail.

Construction is almost the most dangerous job in America, bested only by mining. And like mining, greed often plays a part in accidents. Companies take cost-saving shortcuts at the expense of safety to try to turn a bigger profit.

Case on point.Last Sunday a 12-ton air handling unit snapped loose from a crane and plummeted 30 stories to the street below in Manhattan. Ten people were injured. Obviously they were using a cable of insufficient strength for the job.

As a recent NYT article points out, this is only the most recent dangerous mishap this year in the New York construction industry. In fact, this year is poised to match 2008 – the year two cranes toppled in New York City claiming 19 lives – as the most deadly construction year in New York history.

Picture of Michael Bersani .jpgCan you sue for compensation beyond your workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured on the job in New York? Maybe. Find out how by watching my new video about New York personal injury lawsuits for on-the-job injuries.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for scaffold.jpgI read in yesterday that a 37-year old man, Lateef Haskins, died Friday in a construction accident when he fell from the scaffold he was working from. He was working for a subcontractor on a job renovating the State University College of Oswego.

The article went on to say that Mr. Haskins had shown heroism when, several years ago, he helped rescue a family of four from their house fire. Using a ladder, he had gotten people out of the top floor before the fire department got there. This was not without risk to his own life; flames were shooting out of the roof as he rescued his trapped neighbors.

Mr. Haskins’ family will likely be entitled not only to workers’ compensation benefits, but to much more compensation should they file a claim under New York’s Labor law 240, also known as “The Scaffold Law”. I have blogged about this special Statute often before. Under most circumstances, when a construction worker falls from a scaffold, the general contractor and the owner of the construction project (here, New York State) are automatically liable for all damages suffered by the worker and his family. In this case, that would include all future lost wages and compensation to any children Mr. Haskins’ has for “loss of parental guidance”.

celltower.jpgThis is the second time I have blogged about the dangers cell phone tower climbers face. The media is catching on to my concern. PBS’s “Frontline” just published an article last week titled, “In Race For Better Cell Service, Men Who Climb Towers Pay With Their Lives”. It then aired a film version of the article.

As Frontline points out, the statistics are grim. Between 2003 and 2011, 50 cell phone tower climbers died on the job, almost all by falling to their death. AT&T has the worst record of all, with nearly three times more deaths than its nearest “competitor”.

Why are these workers dying? Frontline found that “in accident after accident, deadly missteps often resulted because climbers were shoddily equipped or received little training before being sent up hundreds of feet” and that, “to satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions”. All the cell phone carriers are racing to roll out ever better and faster cell phone networks to deliver ever faster and more voluminous music, games and videos online. To get the jobs done fast, and cheap, safety rules are routinely violated.

Thumbnail image for scaffold.jpgI read in the New York Law Journal today that a coalition of business groups has formed to once again attack Labor Law §240, known as the “Scaffold Law”, and its sister Statute, Labor Law §241. The Scaffold Law has, in my humble opinion as a Central and Syracuse New York construction accident lawyer, saved countless lives in New York by holding employers and owners of construction sites responsible for workers’ falls from scaffolds (among other things). The other Statute, Labor Law §241, provides additional protection, not only from falls, but for many other types of common construction “accidents” (I put “accidents” in quotes because most of them are not true accidents, but rather the result of employers and others encouraging or allowing their workers to cut corners on safety).

The “new” coalition is made up of the usual suspects: The Business Council of the State of New York, the Associated General Contractors of New York State, Unshackle Upstate, and the New York State Builders Association. These guys get together every five years or so to take another whack at our dear Labor Law, so far, thank God, without success! If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try . . .. Well, you know.

According to the article, the new coalition’s leaders believe Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration may be more “business-friendly” than his predecessors’, and that the time is right for delivering a knock-out blow to these safe construction-work statutes. And they may be right! But even if they are “right”, what they are doing is wrong. They are putting profits over safety, and in my book, and I hope in Mr. Cuomo’s, that’s like finger nails on a blackboard.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for constructionworkeronroof.jpgThis story just kills me. The Syracuse Post Standard reports that a construction worker repairing the roof of Tully High School fell from the roof this morning while members of the high school’s girls cross-country team stood by and witnessed it. I feel terrible for the injured worker, but also for those poor kids who witnessed the tragedy.

And it was an avoidable tragedy. The law was not followed. I’ll tell you more about that later, but first let me say that, in my experience as a Syracuse construction work accident lawyer, most fallen roofer injuries are serious, and life-long. Because the injuries from falls are so serious, New York has a special law to protect construction workers on rooftops and scaffolds. It’s called Labor Law 240, or “the scaffold law”.

Tully School District will almost certainly be held liable to the fallen roof-repair man. Why? Because under New York Labor Law 240, the owner of a building is, in almost all circumstances, strictly liable for all worker falls from the building’s roof. The roof repair man should have been tied up with a lanyard or some other safety device, and apparently he was not. This is, generally, a clear cut violation of Labor Law 240.

house painter.jpgWhen I was a college student, I used to paint houses in the summer to make a few bucks. I was fearless then. I would climb way up high on extension ladders and paint the peaks of three-story homes. And I would climb on roofs, lie down and dangle my head over the edge, and paint the eeves. Nothing was holding me to the roof except gravity and guts. I was in my 20’s and I did not think I could ever die, or even get injured. And work was plentiful. Homeowners readily hired me because I had a reputation for doing a good job on the cheap.

Now, much older, wiser, and having represented too many fallen workers in my job as a Central New York and Syracuse construction accident lawyer, I dare not climb a ladder even to clean my own gutters. Being a Central New York construction accident lawyer has its downside – I have lost my nerve. I take six steps up the ladder, my mind’s eye sees three or four clients who fell when the ladder they were on toppled, or when they lost their grip, I then think of how my family will fare without a breadwinner, and before you know it, I have backed my way down the ladder to the safety of mother earth.

My house needs painting. Even though I have painted over 50 houses in the day, I am not going to paint mine. I would much rather represent fallen workers than be one.

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