Basch & Keegan recently obtained a seven-figure settlement on behalf of a Kingston man who was seriously injured in a tractor-trailer, workplace accident. John A. DeGasperis represented a sixty-four-year-old-miner in this personal injury action. After years of litigation, John negotiated a settlement worth $1,068,500.
Our client sustained a multitude of injuries including femur and pelvic fractures that resulted in a total hip replacement and nerve injuries that resulted in foot drop and spine surgery. The foot drop is permanent and renders the client incapable of working. These types of injuries are serious, and they come with long-lasting effects. John fought hard to ensure the settlement took into consideration the permanent nature of his client’s injuries.
This case involved an accident that occurred at the Clinton Point Quarry located in Poughkeepsie, New York. The quarry was owned and operated by the client’s employer: Tilcon New York, Inc. (“Tilcon”). Our client worked as a miner. He was a member of the Local Operator’s Engineer.
The quarry contains a water-side dock along the Hudson River. Tilcon used the dock to load barges with stone product. Tilcon was in the process of erecting a new washplant at the quarry, near the dock. The accident happened during the erection of the wash plant.
Tilcon had hired Bietzel Corporation to serve as the general contractor for the construction project. Bietzel erected the wash plant with the assistance of numerous miners including our client.
Tilcon contracted with American Materials Processing, Inc. (“AMP”) to design the wash plant. AMP also manufactured the steel pieces that comprised the wash plant. AMP manufactured the steel pieces at a manufacturing facility located in Pheonix, New York. The fabricated steel had to be transported more than 600 miles on flatbed trailers from Western New York to Dutchess County.
Mendon Enterprises, Inc. (“Mendon”), a trucking company, was hired by AMP to transport the steel to the quarry.
Mendon employed a truck driver to transport the steel. Mendon provided the driver with a Peterbuilt tractor and single-drop, flatbed trailer. The trailer measured approximately 30 feet in length, 3-6 feet in height, and 8 feet in width. The trailer was equipped with various straps, chains, cords and other securing devices.
Mendon’s truck driver arrived at the Pheonix facility with an empty trailer. AMP provided a forklift operator to load the steel on to the trailer, but Mendon’s driver supervised and orchestrated the loading process. The load consisted of miscellaneous fabrications that differed in weight, size, and dimension: 1 steel walkway, 1 steel ladder assembly, 4 twenty-foot sections of railing, 4 fifteen-foot sections of railing and 4 eight-foot sections of railing.
Mendon’s driver positioned the ladder on the driver’s side. He positioned the walkway in the center. He placed the railings on the passenger side and leaned them against the large, heavy walkway. He secured the load with straps before heading to Poughkeepsie.
The railings had an estimated, combined weight of 2,000 pounds. The railings were unsteady on their feet. They were not designed to stand upright unless secured.
Our client was assigned by his employer to help unload the flatbed trailer at the Ready Line. The “Ready Line” is a staging area located within the quarry. Tilcon parked its heavy equipment at the Ready Line. This is where the accident happened.
Upon arrival, our client and his co-workers assessed the load. They conferred with truck driver too. Together, all four men formulated a plan to safely unload the steel. They agreed Tilcon’s Telehandler was sufficient to unload the heavy steel pieces.
A Telehandler is a mechanized lifting machine. It functions much like a forklift, but it offers increased versatility and an extending boom for greater reach. One major downfall to the Telehandler is visibility. The vehicle’s cab is situated on the left , which creates a limited field of vision for the operator. Spotters are necessary for safe and effective Telehandler operations.
The Telehandler operator grew concerned about the steel railings as he inspected the load. During pre-trial depositions, the Telehandler operator gave testimony indicating that the railings had not been properly loaded onto the trailer. According to the operator, the railings were subject to tipping as they should have been laid down on the flatbed trailer, not stacked upright.
Our client got up onto the flatbed trailer to help guide the Telehandler operator. Meanwhile, the truck driver began the process of unstrapping the steel pieces. The driver removed the final strap from the load when suddenly the steel railings shifted and tipped over. The railings struck our client and catapulted him off the trailer onto the hard-packed dirt below. He landed on his right side. The impact was so powerful that our client’s pants burst open at the seams.
An ambulance was dispatched to the scene of the accident. Our client was found lying on the ground. The ambulance rushed him to the emergency department at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. X-rays revealed a right sub-capital femur fracture and right inferior and sub-pubic remi fractures. Our client had to undergo a full right hip surgery with a blood transfusion.
Our client had a multi-day hospital admission before he was discharged to an inpatient therapy program where he stayed for six weeks. He recovered from the hip injury and adapted to the hip prosthetic, but he subsequently began to show signs of a severe neurologic injury to his spinal cord. He was diagnosed with foot drop and severe spinal damage. He was referred to a spine surgeon and remained “totally disabled as a result of this injury” according to multiple doctors.
Our client finally received spin surgery almost two years after the accident. The spine surgery did succeed in reducing his pain, but the numbness in his leg and foot drop remained. In order to walk, he must wear a leg brace that supports his foot.
John argued the accident occurred due to the general negligence of all parties, but the transportation company violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. For that reason, John targeted the transportation for its negligent conduct and federal regulatory violations. John retained a safety expert who concluded the trailer was not suitable for the load and lacked deck-mounted anchor points to adequately secure the load.
John obtained an extraordinary settlement on behalf of his clients. He arrived at the settlement figure through dedication and experience. He spent months investigating the accident. He worked hired multiple experts and disbursed firm resources to get to the truth. Moreover, Basch and Keegan never hesitated to invest the resources necessary to win. The transportation company’s liability insurance company had made numerous unreasonable settlements over the course of two years. The insurance company eventually capitulated and offered its entire $1 million policy one week before trial. The general contractor and steel manufacturer settled out for a combined $68,500, totaling $1,068,500.
This accident had a profound impact on the life of our client. John’s knowledge of the law, investigative abilities, and diligence are what got our client the settlement he deserves.