By James Hagedorn
In the largest personal injury settlement for a construction accident in New York City’s history, a court has award $36 million to a worker left paralyzed after an accident at an unsafe worksite.
Ricardo Tavares was struck by a collapsed utility pole and flung 15 feet to the bottom of an excavation trench in a horrific accident at a DEP roadway sewer project in Brooklyn in April 2016.
A mobile excavator machine operated by a co-worker snagged the overhead utility line causing the pole to fall.
Tavares, a 39-year-old journeyman union construction worker, was working for a private construction company at the time. The utility line and pole belonged to an adjacent landowner.
Tavares had been contracted to work on the Department of Environmental Protection project by his employer, Perfetto Enterprises Company.
Attorneys, The Edelstiens, Faegenberg & Brown, LLP, claimed the city was culpable of conduct that resembled gross negligence, carelessness and recklessness by failing to provide the Tavares with a hazard-free workplace, adequate safety devices and equipment necessary to protect workers from hazards associated with heights and excavation projects. The court found the city violated the provisions of the Labor Law of the State of New York, the Industrial Code of the State of New York and the provisions of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration as they pertain to construction by allowing the excavation equipment and machinery to be operated by an improperly trained and licensed operator.
Tavares who is married to a special needs school teacher, Olga Martinez, and has an eight-year-old daughter is now wheelchair bound and has required extensive hospitalization, rehabilitation and multiple surgeries to treat the injuries and complications he suffered.
“What happened to Ricardo was an absolute tragedy, not only because of the devastating effect that it’s had on him and his family, but because the accident was entirely and easily avoidable by employing the most basic of construction principles – removal of all visible hazards from the construction site before commencing work,” said attorney Glenn Faegenburg of the Edelsteins, Faegenburg & Brown.
According to the DOB, there have been 550 construction-related accidents in the city this year and 11 construction-related fatalities.
The numbers represent a 26 percent drop in construction-related accidents year-to-year and is first decline in the metric in nearly a decade