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Philadelphia County

This action involved injuries suffered by the plaintiff, a 27-year-old roofer, after he fell 20’ through a hole in the roof of the industrial plant where he was working. The defendants included the plaintiff’s employer (which the plaintiff was permitted to sue based on the employer’s lack of workers compensation insurance) and the owner of the industrial plant where the plaintiff was working. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants negligently allowed a dangerous condition at the worksite and failed to provide fall protection equipment which would have prevented the plaintiff’s fall. The plaintiff’s employer, Battisto Development, did not respond to the complaint and was placed in default. The co-defendant industrial plant, Norfab Corporation, maintained that the fall was solely the fault of the plaintiff and his employer.

In the summer of ________, the plaintiff was employed as a roofer by the defendant Battisto Development and was working on a job at the defendant Norfab’s industrial plant in Norristown.

The job called for the demolition and replacement of a certain portion of the defendant Norfab’s plant roof. The contract between the plaintiff’s employer and Norfab required Norfab to install overhead protective measures that would protect its machinery below the roof demolition work. Evidence showed that Norfab placed a canopy to prevent debris from falling into the plant.

According to Norfab witnesses, the protective canopy covered about 99.9% of the area under the roofing project.

However, it was alleged that Norfab workers complained that too much debris was falling through the small area which was not protected. In response to Norfab’s complaints, the plaintiff claimed that the roofers set up a system whereby plywood was laid across a hole in the roof. The roofers could sit on this plywood and catch the roofing debris before it fell through into the Norfab plant.

The plaintiff testified that he was sitting on the plywood removing roofing material, when the plywood failed. Plaintiff fell through the hole in the roof and landed on the floor of the plant 20 feet below.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant Norfab possessed and controlled the project, had knowledge of the hazards associated with a roof replacement project and had actual notice that the roofers were not utilizing proper fall protection measures and was therefore negligent.

The plaintiff also asserted that the use of plywood over a hole in the roof resulted from the defendant Norfab’s failure to erect a canopy under the entire area of the work, as required by its contract with the plaintiff’s employer.

The plaintiff sustained a closed fracture to his acetabulum (pelvis) as a result of the fall, along with a hip bruise, concussion and loss of consciousness. The plaintiff underwent open reduction and internal fixation for the hip fracture, followed by physical therapy. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff is a candidate for hip replacement surgery in the future if his symptoms, which include a slight limp and ongoing regional pain, persist. The parties stipulated to past, paid medical expenses of $________.

The plaintiff claimed that his hip injury prevented him from continuing work in the construction field. The plaintiff alleged that, because of his limited transferable skills, he has sustained a loss of future wages. The plaintiff testified that, for periods after the accident, he held jobs in telemarketing and as a shoe salesman, but the jobs were lower paying.

The plaintiff, a single man, also testified that his injuries have inhibited his ability to perform home repairs, engage in physical activity and that the difficulty of finding a new career has caused emotional distress.

The defendant Norfab maintained that the unsafe condition was solely the responsibility of the plaintiff’s employer. The defense contended that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent for failing to use due caution on the roof.

The defendant also maintained that the plaintiff was capable of alternative employment at the same or greater rate of pay than he previously earned as a roofer.

The jury found the defendant Battisto 80% negligent and the defendant Norfab 20% negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in damages. Post-trial motions are pending.

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