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Miami-Dade County, FL

The plaintiff was an iron worker working on the 21st floor of a hotel construction project in Miami Beach, Florida, when an employee of the defendant concrete company started an air compressor. The plaintiff claimed that the air compressor caused debris to become airborne resulting in a metal fragment becoming embedded in his left eye. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s employee was grossly negligent and sought punitive, as well as compensatory damages. The defendant argued that the incident did not rise to the level of gross negligence and, therefore, the defendant (a subcontractor on the same project) was protected from liability by Florida’s worker’s compensation immunity. The defense also contended that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent in causing the injury and could not prove how the metal fragment was thrown into his eye.

The plaintiff was a 30-year-old native of Honduras at the time of the injury on January 30, ________. He claimed that the defendant’s employee, in an attempt to clear debris from the work area, started a high-powered air compression without warning. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s employees had been previously instructed to make sure that other workers were clear of the area before operating the air compressor, yet failed to follow those instructions because they were in a hurry on the day in question. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s actions caused a piece of metal to lodge in his left eye.

The plaintiff underwent a total of six eye surgeries. However, his vision could not be saved and the plaintiff is totally blind in one eye, according to evidence offered. The plaintiff claimed that he was unable to return to construction work, the only work he had ever performed. The plaintiff was precluded by the court from alleging future lost wages, other than his anticipated earnings in his native Honduras, since he was an illegal resident in the United States.

The defendant claimed that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent because his protective goggles were not properly placed over his eyes at the time of the incident. The plaintiff’s foreman also testified that the plaintiff was using a chop saw at the time of the incident, which the defense contended could have been the reason that debris flew up into his eyes, as opposed to being caused by the compressor. Additionally, the defense contended that no one was able to identify the alleged user of the air compressor. The defendant contended that the testimony regarding the prior warnings regarding use of the air compressor was hearsay by a disgruntled former employee of the defendant. The defendant’s safety expert testified that the defendant had appropriate safety programs and procedures in place.The jury found the defendant 80% liable and the plaintiff 20% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in damages, reduced accordingly. The jury specifically found that the defendant was grossly negligent, but declined to award punitive damages. Post-trial motions are pending.

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