WRSH partner Mitchell Kahn obtained a $2,000,000.00 settlement for the family of a 43-year-old construction worker who, unfortunately, died as a result of falling from the roof of the building he was working on. The plaintiff and his coworkers were removing a wood shingle roof and replacing it with an aluminum roof. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was on the roof removing the tarp. There were lifelines attached at the peak of the roof that extended down the sides of the building to the ground. Rope grabs were attached to the lifelines. The workers were given safety harnesses with lanyards, to which were attached pelican clips. The workers would clip the pelican clips onto the rope grabs attached to the lifelines. The plaintiff’s employer’s written safety rules mandated that the workers never to go up a ladder or near the edge of the roof without being tied off to the rope grab. Further, their safety rules required workers to remain clipped onto the rope grabs until they were safely on the ground.

On the day of the accident, three of the plaintiff’s workers arrived at the site in the morning and the plaintiff went up to the roof to remove the tarp that was covering the unfinished portions of the roof. There were no rope grabs available on the ground to tie off to when he ascended to the roof. The other two workers were on the ground gathering and preparing the tools. At some point, one of plaintiff’s coworkers observed the plaintiff at the edge of the roof and then falling off the roof to the decking approximately 17 feet below. The plaintiff was rushed to the hospital and died four days later from his injuries. The plaintiff’s expert opined that he was conscious for approximately 17 minutes before he became completely and permanently unconscious.

OSHA investigators and police responded to the scene on the day of the accident. OSHA’s investigation concluded that the rope grabs had been left attached to the lifelines at the peak of the roof on the previous day. As such, the rope grabs were not available for workers to tie off to when ascending to the roof. According to the OSHA investigation, this contributed to the accident. OSHA issued a citation and five violations to the plaintiff’s employer, inter alia, the failure to provide a personal fall arrest system.

This case was vigorously litigated by the defendants for many years. The defendants attempted to argue that the plaintiff was the sole proximate cause of this accident. After obtaining copies of OSHA reports, police reports, and conducting numerous deposition, we were able to establish that the defendant violated Labor Law 240, by failing to provide adequate fall protection, and provisions of Labor Law 241 (6), by failing to provide the plaintiff with a rope grab that would permit him to be tied off at all times.

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