Partner Daniel T. Leav settled a case at private mediation in November 2019, where Leav & Steinberg LLP represented plaintiffs who suffered injuries in an incident that took place in January 2015. The case was handled from the inception to trial prep by partner Daniela F. Henriques.
The Incident That Caused the Injuries
The plaintiffs, a mother and daughter, were walking on the sidewalk alongside an active construction site in Queens, New York, when a construction wall collapsed and fell onto them, causing them to be knocked to the ground. The project was massive; it was the construction of a 20-family mixed-use building. There was a construction wall to the left of where the plaintiffs were walking on the sidewalk. There was no flagman; there were no cones; there were no barriers; there was no indication that the sidewalk should not be used. As the plaintiffs were walking past the construction site, they were struck by a heavy piece of construction wall that collapsed and fell onto them. The force of the fence caused both plaintiffs to fall and strike the ground. The brunt of the construction wall struck the daughter’s head and she lost consciousness at the scene.
It was the plaintiffs’ contentions that the construction fence needed to be assessed throughout the project. There were construction vehicles passing through the area; there was demolition debris being removed from the site; there were prior complaints concerning ground vibration from the excavation/demolition; clearly, the integrity of the fence was compromised. Insofar as it was created for the benefit of the defendants (the owner and general contractor), and pursuant to numerous NYCDOB, DOT, and NYCRR regulations, they are responsible for its safe maintenance. The NYCDOB issued a violation against the defendant(s) arising out of the plaintiffs’ accident on January 5, 2015, due to the “integrity of the underpinning” of the construction fence.
The Extent of the Injuries
The daughter, 23 years old, sustained a traumatic brain injury: a period of loss of consciousness at the scene, active brain bleed and swelling, objective findings through repeat MRIs of hemorrhagic contusions to the temporal and frontal lobe(s), a fracture to the occipital bone and a presence of white matter indicative of an axonal injury to the brain. The injuries caused changes in cognition, behavior, focus, speech, problem-solving, and word finding. The defense claimed the injury could not have been that devastating because the plaintiff was able to complete college and further studies. The defense failed to consider that although the plaintiff finished her schooling, she did so with great difficulty, taking hours to study because of her lack of focus, taking extensions and often submitting assignments to the professors late, asking for accommodations to complete tests, and being overall behind for a semester. This is not to mention the toll on her family life and the lack of focus and attention on certain tasks making it difficult to babysit or be alone with a young niece—something the plaintiff truly enjoyed doing.
The mother, 50 years old, suffered a tear to the medial meniscus of the left knee, a tear of the lateral meniscus of the right knee, a disc herniation at L5-S1 disc level, a disc bulge at L4-L5 disc level, a disc herniation at C3-C4 disc level, a disc herniation at C6-C7 disc level, a disc bulge at C4-C5 disc level, productive changes to the AC joint of the left shoulder, and productive changes of the anterior and posterior glenoid labrum of the left shoulder. She underwent arthroscopic surgery to the left knee in December 2015 and underwent a second arthroscopic surgery to the right knee in October 2017. She was recommended for surgery to correct the damage to the shoulder.
Trial and Settlement
During the discovery phase, neither the owner nor the general contractor exchanged any meaningful discovery, which included contractors for the project, daily logs or foreman’s reports, invoices for the work, or any progress photographs at the job site. During the questioning at deposition, a witness on behalf of the owner testified that he was present and played an active role in the daily construction work at the project site. His deposition lasted less than 30 minutes, when he abruptly stood up after threatening our attorney and outright refusing to answer simple questions—this is after invoking his 5th Amendment right not to answer questions. The witness on behalf of the general contractor was caught in numerous inconsistencies and outright lies during his deposition. He admitted that the owner instructed him and/or his company to “check the construction fence,” which he claimed he did with a visual check and possibly a “shake of the fence.” There were no inspection records; there were no daily progress notes; there was no site safety plan; there was no record-keeping that one would expect in a project such as this.
After hours of settlement discussions at the mediation, the case settled for $2,550,000 for the daughter and $300,000 for the mother.
Contact Leav & Steinberg for Personal Injury Representation
Daniel T. Leav, Daniela F. Henriques, and the other personal injury attorneys at Leav & Steinberg have years of experience representing injured clients, and we have the results to show for it. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence in New York City, contact us to request a free consultation.