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Philadelphia County

This action arose from a worksite accident in which the plaintiff, a 48-year-old window glazer, fell from a ladder at a strip mall construction site in New Jersey. The plaintiff claimed that the fall was caused by the defendant general contractor’s failure to ensure that the ground was safe and level before calling in the glazing subcontractor. The defendant argued that the fall was caused by the plaintiff’s own negligence, the plaintiff’s employer was responsible for the safety of its employees at the site and the defendant had no notice of any problem regarding uneven ground. A subcontractor, retained to perform leveling and concrete work at the site, was sued separately and settled the plaintiff’s claim prior to trial.

The plaintiff alleged that the construction project was poorly run by the defendant, in that it scheduled the glazing subcontractor (the plaintiff’s employer) to install the windows before the ground was safe. The plaintiff claimed that the ground was muddy, uneven and covered with excavation ditches and holes when the glazers arrived. The plaintiff contended that he and his co-workers were required to do the best they could to set up their ladders on the uneven ground to reach the windows. The plaintiff called a co-worker and an employee of an electrical subcontractor who testified that there were holes and ditches at the site at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. The plaintiff’s construction safety engineer testified that in New Jersey, where the accident occurred, the defendant general contractor was required to guarantee worksite safety.

The plaintiff testified that he put a piece of plywood over a muddy hole and set his ladder up on the plywood. While the plaintiff was about three feet up the ladder, he testified that the plywood caved in the hole, causing him to fall backwards and strike the ground seven or eight feet away.

The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff sustained an aggravation of a preexisting, but previously asymptomatic, arthritic condition in his hip. The plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified that the plaintiff requires a future hip replacement. The plaintiff’s family physician testified that he had treated the plaintiff for approximately 20 years and the plaintiff had not voiced any complaints of hip pain prior to the fall.

The plaintiff claimed that his hip injury prevented him from returning to his employment as a glazer, a job which required him to carry heavy pieces of glass up ladders. The plaintiff was married with seven children and earned approximately $________ per year as a glazer. He never returned to work after the fall. The plaintiff’s vocational expert opined, based on the plaintiff’s 11th grade education, his history of physical labor and his current disability, that he will be unable to find gainful employment. The plaintiff sought two and a-half to three million dollars in past and future loss of wages.

The defendant denied that the worksite had holes and ditches as described by the plaintiff. The defendant testified that it had tamped the ground and installed stones to make the site level for the glazers. There were no photographs depicting the condition of the site at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was negligent for setting up his ladder on plywood and that the plaintiff’s employer should have called the defendant, or stopped work, if it felt that the conditions were unsafe. The defendant denied any notice of a problem at the site.

The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff’s hip condition was preexisting and not in any way aggravated by the fall. This expert testified that the plaintiff would have required hip surgery regardless of the accident. The defendant’s vocational expert opined that if the plaintiff could work before the date of the fall, he could continue to work at the same level after the fall.

The jury deliberated approximately 33 minutes, before finding the defendant general contractor ________% negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $6.5 million in damages, including $5 million to the plaintiff and $1.5 to his wife for her loss of consortium claim. The defendant’s post-trial motions are pending. The plaintiff has moved for delay damages of approximately $________.

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