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Collapsing Roof Case – Bronx County 2021

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This case involved a work-related accident on Long Island at a warehouse. The plaintiff worker was 34-years old when the accident occurred. The owner of the building hired the plaintiff’s company to perform demolition work at the subject premises. This work involved demolishing the entire structure except for the four walls. Following the demolition work, a new roof was to be put on the structure and other construction work was to be performed so the structure could be used as a warehouse.

How the Accident Happened

On the day of the accident, plaintiff was working with approximately six (6) co-workers performing demolition work on the roof. His foreman instructed plaintiff and his partner to go up to the roof and begin removing the demolished debris and loading it in the dumpster outside. He instructed them to throw the debris off the roof and into the dumpster on the ground floor. There were no demolition chutes on this job site. The foreman and several other employees were demolishing the roof while plaintiff and his partner were tossing the debris down to the dumpster.

At approximately 11:00 am, plaintiff was bending down to pick up a piece of debris and carry it to the edge of the roof to toss to the dumpster. At that moment, he felt the roof below him collapse, causing him to fall through the roof down through the building and onto the concrete floor. The roof was approximately twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) feet above the concrete floor.

Plaintiff had complained to the other workers, and his foreman earlier that morning that the roof was not safe. The foreman told him to walk on the “more stable” areas and to continue working. There were no safety harnesses or other safety equipment on the job site. Plaintiff asked the foreman for a harness, but he was told that there were none and to work without it.

The Lawsuit

Following discovery in this matter The Platta Law Firm moved for summary judgment against the defendant property owner on the issue of liability, which the Court granted. Defendant appealed the Court’s decision, arguing that the plaintiff was acting outside the scope of his employment at the time of the accident and was solely responsible for his accident. In support of this argument, they pointed to a one page document which they claim was prepared by plaintiff’s foreman which said plaintiff was a member of the ground crew. The Platta Law Firm argued that this unsigned, unsworn document was not admissible evidence. In any event, there was no dispute that some workers were permitted to be working on the roof and while they were atop the roof a portion of it collapsed. The Appellate Court unanimously affirmed the decision which granted plaintiff summary judgment.

As a result of this accident, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries, including fractures to his right foot and leg which required open reduction internal fixation to repair, head lacerations that required staples, and herniations in his neck which required injections and then a fusion surgery to repair. The case settled prior to trial for $4,495,000.