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Hudson County, NJ

This action involved a 50-year-old plaintiff shop steward who was involved in the construction of a public parking garage in Harrison, New Jersey. The plaintiff fell from the scaffold that did not contain side rails and suffered bilateral wrist fractures. The plaintiff’s employer had been retained to perform the carpentry work by a subcontractor that was obtained by the general contractor. The plaintiff had constructed a scaffold that was attached to a large Symons form that was utilized to keep the concrete used for the wall in place as the concrete set. The evidence disclosed that the plaintiff had constructed the scaffold in question.

The scaffold was designed to have three floor boards and side rails. The plaintiff contended that as he was in the course of constructing the scaffold and before he placed the side rails, an employee of the defendant general contractor took the board used for the middle portion of the floor, rendering the scaffold unsafe, irrespective of the presence or absence of side rails because the middle portion of the scaffold floor would be open. The plaintiff would have related that when this employee took the board, he protested because he was very safety conscious and knew that such action would create hazards. The employee, who did not speak English, gestured that he was employed by the general contractor.

The plaintiff maintained that he went to one of the GC’s supervisors, voiced complaints and was told to continue the work in this manner. The plaintiff contended that he then went to a supervisor who was employed by the subcontractor who had hired his employer. The plaintiff asserted that he was similarly told to continue the work in this manner. The plaintiff contended that although he was a shop steward, he believed that he would not obtain future assignments unless he complied, and did so. The plaintiff maintained that as he was working, he felt himself lose his balance and fell through the opening.

The evidence reflected that the scaffold could be placed at any height along the side being constructed. The estimates of the distance fallen varied widely. The plaintiff indicated that he fell approximately 20 feet. Documents filled in at the site by a supervisor estimated the distance as low as six feet. The investigating police officer indicated that he believed the distance was as much as 30 feet.

The defendants denied that the plaintiff made the alleged complaints and contended that the cause of the fall was the improper manner in which he decided to build the scaffold. The defendants did not dispute that the plaintiff had always been a very safety conscious individual. The plaintiff would have argued that the depositions of the supervisors in question reflected that they had very limited knowledge of OSHA regulations and the plaintiff would have maintained that this evidence lent further support for his position.

The plaintiff, who is right hand dominant, suffered bilateral wrist fractures. He required both an open reduction with internal fixation and an external fixation device on the left side. The plaintiff further underwent an open reduction and the insertion of a plate and screws on the right side. The plaintiff also suffered bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome which was surgically addressed.

The plaintiff maintained that he will permanently suffer pain and weakness, as well as difficulties with everyday activities around the home. The plaintiff also contended that he will permanently be unable to work in a physical capacity. The plaintiff did not dispute that he is capable of working in a supervisory capacity. The employer was named as a third party defendant under a contractual indemnification theory.The case settled prior to trial for $________, with the two defendants and the third party defendant paying one-third each.

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