50-Year-Old Union Worker Suffers Spinal Injuries After Falling Into a Trench

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., secures a $3,600,000 settlement for a 50-year-old union worker who fell backward into an unguarded trench, landing on a gas pipe, fracturing his spine and injuring his shoulder and knee.

On September 18th, 2015, the plaintiff was injured while working at the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Main Street in Queens, New York—an area commonly referred to as the Kew Gardens Interchange Improvement Project. After using a pry bar to lift a piece of asphalt, our client, a Local 1010 union laborer, fell backward into an unguarded and unprotected trench.

The plaintiff fell roughly 5 feet onto an uncovered water main and gas pipe. As a result of the fall, the claimant suffered fractures from the L1 to L4 levels of his lumbar spine. The plaintiff registered complaints of neck and back pain, along with pain throughout the left side of his body—particularly in the shoulder and knee. In the months following, the plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries to repair the damage from the trench fall, including an arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, an anterior cervical fusion, and an arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

In addition to the physical injuries, the claimant also suffered psychological injuries and was diagnosed with recurrent depressive disorder. The injuries from the accident also prevent the claimant from returning to work, resulting in lost earnings and associated union benefits totaling $2 million.

The suit against the State of New York claimed that the open trench violated New York State Labor Law §§ 200, 240(1) and 241(6). The trench exposed the laborer to a gravity-related risk, and the lack of safety barriers or railings violated Labor Law §240(1). The incident also violated numerous NY State Industrial Codes, including the requirement that hazardous openings be guarded by a fastened cover or railing.

As a result, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., was able to secure a $3,600,000 settlement on behalf of the plaintiff on July 17, 2019, prior to motions for summary judgment.