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ARTICLE ID 189863

$________ – LABOR LAW SEC. ________ (1) – UNION STEAMFITTER FALLS TWO FEET FROM A-FRAME AND LADDER HOLDING ________ POUND PIPE – PIPE’S OTHER END DETACHES FROM CEILING AND STRIKES HIS HEAD – THORACIC HERNIATIONS – POOR RESULT FROM INITIAL FUSION SURGERY – SUBSEQUENT SURGERY EXTENDING FUSION – INABILITY TO CONTINUE WORK – DAMAGES ONLY.

New York County, NY

The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on liability was granted in this Sec. ________ (1) Labor Law case in August, ________, and affirmed by the Appellate Division, First Department, in April, ________. The case involved a 31-year-old steamfitter, who was struck on the head by a ________ pound steel pipe, falling two feet off an A-frame ladder, and being knocked unconscious for several minutes. The plaintiff contended that he suffered a herniation at T6-7 and that after a long course of conservative treatment proved inadequate, he underwent initial fusion surgery with instrumentation approximately three years after the accident. The plaintiff maintained that he suffered transition syndrome, in which the fusion caused additional stress at levels above the surgery site, causing two additional herniations. The plaintiff underwent an extension of the fusion and the replacement of hardware. The plaintiff contended that although the subsequent surgery provided significant pain relief, he will be permanently precluded from continuing as a union steamfitter.

The plaintiff related that he returned to work on light duty one to two weeks after accident. The plaintiff contended that the symptoms progressed despite non-surgical treatment that included narcotic pain medication, anti-inflammatories, trigger point injections and epidural steroid injections. The plaintiff then underwent fusion with instrumentation in September, ________, three years after accident. The plaintiff contended that the symptoms heightened after the surgery and that transition syndrome, in which the fusion caused additional stress at levels above the surgery site, was diagnosed.

The plaintiff maintained that additional herniations were then found at T4-5 and T5-6. The plaintiff underwent second surgery in September, ________, in which the old hardware was removed, and the fusion was extended up two levels to T4, with new instrumentation. The plaintiff reported significant relief after the second surgery, and by the time of trial, had mild residual symptoms, controlled with pain and anti-inflammatory medication.

The plaintiff contended that he had enrolled in the VESID program to be retrained or re-educated to move into a more sedentary occupation. The plaintiff contended that as a pipefitter, in addition to the straight salary of $________ per hour that was doubled for overtime, he also had extensive fringe benefits that approximated $________ per hour in addition to medical benefits. The plaintiff maintained that the benefits included a fund to be used in between jobs and when weather conditions prevented steamfitters from working. The plaintiff also maintained that the benefits funded vacations. The plaintiff maintained that his talents and inclinations gear him towards physical labor and that even if he is retrained for more sedentary type work, the economic loss is extensive.

The defendant denied that the accident was the cause of disc injuries, and maintained that the plaintiff sustained no injury other than the initial concussion. The defendants’ examining neurologist testified that the plaintiff had no residual spinal disease. The defendants’ examining neurosurgeon testified that the plaintiff had no serious permanent deficit, and could return to his previous employment.

The plaintiff maintained that he had no prior symptoms or treatment and contended that it was clear that the current pain and limitations were caused by the incident. The plaintiff’s experts used an anatomical model to demonstrate the manner in which the force would be transmitted from the top of the head to the area of the initial injury, which constituted the level in which the back curved outward the most. The plaintiff contended that in view of this factor, the traumatic nature of the incident, and the absence of prior symptoms or treatment, it was clear that the incident was the cause of his complaints. The plaintiff also presented his “partner” who had worked extensively with him both before and after the accident. The witness related that after the incident, he did most of the heavy work and confirmed that the plaintiff engaged in light duty type work.The jury awarded $________ including $________ for past pain and suffering, $________ for past lost earnings, $________ for past loss of fringe benefits, $________ for future pain and suffering over 38 years, $________ for future diminished earnings, over 25 years, $________ for lost fringe benefits over 25 years, and $________ for future medical costs over 38 years.

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