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Result: $2.7 Million Settlement for Abatement Specialist Who Suffered Chemical Burns

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. secured a $2.7 million settlement at mediation for a union abatement specialist who suffered chemical burns resulting in complex regional pain syndrome.

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. Attorneys Steven Dorfman and Zach Perecman recovered $2.7 million for a client who suffered chemical burns and other long-term injuries after using a corrosive substance.

The plaintiff was a 25-year-old union-affiliated abatement specialist who had been removing lead paint at a renovation site in Richmond County. When using a chemical intended to eliminate remaining paint, the plaintiff experienced irritation and burning of his arms, hands, and knees.

Injuries & Treatment

The plaintiff was diagnosed by hospital physicians with chemical burns of his hands, knees, and right forearm. The plaintiff underwent a course of physical therapy, exercises, and ultrasonography treatment, and was prescribed a topical ointment. The plaintiff additionally claimed he developed contractures, complex regional pain syndrome, depression, and PTSD, and received psychiatric and psychological counseling.

The plaintiff did not work during the 47 months following his injury, after which he briefly resumed work before quickly stopping again. He claimed his condition prevented his performance of work duties and that his complex regional pain syndrome persisted. The claims were supported by a vocational-rehabilitation expert who opined that he would not be able to resume work and by his treating pain-management specialist, who opined that the plaintiff would require lifelong use of painkillers.

The plaintiff sought damages for future medical expenses, future lost earnings, and past and future pain and suffering.

Claims

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff against the general contractor for the project, as well as the project’s manager and the premises owner. It alleged that the defendants negligently failed to provide a safe workplace in violation of New York Labor Law.

After a separate filing brought by a co-worker (not represented by the firm) was consolidated with the plaintiffs’ and subsequently settled, plaintiff’s counsel proceeded against the general contractor and project manager, alleging that the defendants violated:

  • New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations Title 23, part 1.8(c)(4), which specifies that workers handling corrosive material must be provided appropriate protective apparel.
  • New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations Title 23, part 1.7(h), which specifies that the protective apparel must be provided by the worker’s employer.
  • Labor Law § 241(6), for failing to provide or ensure reasonable and adequate protection.

In support of the claims, a report from the plaintiff’s industrial-hygiene expert opined that the paint-stripping chemical was a corrosive substance and that the plaintiff’s custom of wearing three layers of gloves provided at the work site (comprised of a latex glove, cloth glove, and yellow dishwashing glove) was insufficient in providing adequate protection against chemicals.

Result

The defense argued that the plaintiff had not handled a corrosive chemical and was provided adequate protective equipment. It further contended that the injuries occurred because the plaintiff was rushing and splashing the chemical, and that he worsened his condition by improperly decontaminating himself.

The defense consulted several experts, submitting reports from an orthopedist, psychiatrist, vocational-rehabilitation expert, and pain-management specialist. It was opined that the plaintiff did not suffer PTSD or depression as claimed and that he did not exhibit signs of complex regional pain syndrome or limitations that would prevent his ability to resume work. The defense’s expert orthopedist opined that while the plaintiff suffered chemical-related irritation, it was questionable as to whether the irritation constituted a significant burn.

Ultimately, the plaintiffs’ case was settled at mediation, with the project manager’s insurer agreeing to a settlement totaling $2.7 million.

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