Back 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.
As in many cases, at trial a “smoking gun” made an appearance: an email sent from an official at the Chinese company to one of the crane owner’s employees which said they “could not stand behind the safety of the bearing” and that “we don’t have confidence on its welding”. The jury concluded that the owner knowingly used a faulty bearing to repair the crane, putting at risk the workers and the public.
As in so many construction cases, the at-fault defendant who caused the injury, damage and death was motivated by greed. He bought the known defective bearing from the Chinese company to save money.
Thankfully, justice was rendered. After one of the longest civil trials in New York history (110 days), the jury awarded the families of the two plaintiffs who brought this suit more than $48 million for their economic losses and pain and suffering. Then, the jury added “insult to injury” to the defendant by awarding another whopping $48 million in punitive damages to the plaintiffs. (Punitive damages are very rare in construction accident cases and are allowed only to “punish” very reckless behavior such as this).
Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Well, I’d like to think that justice anywhere — even in a New York City courtroom — rings out for justice everywhere. Greedy construction operators beware!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central and Syracuse NY Construction Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.