A New York City jury has awarded $47.8 million to the families of two construction workers killed when a crane collapsed at the East 91st Street site in 2008.
The verdict is against self-described “King of Cranes” James Lomma who tried to claim that worker Donald Leo Jr. caused his own death by being a “recalcitrant worker” who “willfully failed and refused to utilize available safety devices.”
However, the jury disagreed and assigned zero blame to Donald Jr. and two other contractors for the accident. Instead jurors determined Lomma was 61 percent responsible and his companies 39 percent liable.
Donald Jr. was a 30 year old crane operator from Staten Island when the bearing on his Kodiak crane cracked and the heavy machinery collapsed causing him to fall 240 feet to his death. His family received over $16 million for the trauma he experienced and to cover his funeral expenses and economic losses to his family.
Jurors awarded over $32 million to the family of the 27 year old construction worker Ramadan Kurtaj, an immigrant from Kosovar who yelled “run! run!” to his coworkers when he saw the crane collapse just before he was crushed by the wreckage.
It took over 20 minutes for rescue workers to pull Kurtaj from under the rumble as he lay “moaning and groaning” according to his lawyer, Susan Karten.
Of the $32 million jury verdict, $24 million was for the pain and suffering Kurtaj endured before he succumbed to his injuries later that day at the hospital and passed away.
The rest included $7.5 million for the construction worker’s emotional distress and over $600,000 to compensate his family members for his future earnings.
In the following days, the jury will determine punitive damages which may result in Lomma having to pay millions more to the families of the deceased men.