$1.95 Million Decision for 44 Year-old Forklift Operator in NY

Worker Sustains Three Herniated Discs in Lower Back

Bill Hepner recently obtained a $1.95 million damages award at a binding arbitration on behalf of a client who was injured in a work-related accident. Plaintiff was injured when merchandise he was unloading with a forklift from his truck became wedged at the top of his tractor-trailer's rear door, making it necessary for him to stop and attempt to push the stacked merchandise by hand to keep it from falling over. As a result of pushing against the stack of boxes, plaintiff sustained three herniated discs in his lower back, which had been in a weakened condition from an earlier injury and years of degeneration.

Plaintiff, who was barred from bringing a claim against his employer by the Worker's Compensation Law, sued the produce delivery company which packed his truck for him, on the theory that they repeatedly improperly stacked the boxes too high inside the truck, making it difficult to maneuver them out.

Plaintiff had fusion surgery which Bill argued was due to this accident and not his prior back condition. Plaintiff also had additional surgeries as a result of a post-operative infection which developed at the donor site of the bone graft used for the lumbar disc fusion. Bill proved that although plaintiff had prior back problems, pushing the stacked boxes were a substantial factor in rendering a previously hard working laborer, unable to work. Plaintiff was found to be somewhat at fault for his injury, since he voluntarily undertook the activity of pushing the boxes. Nevertheless, Bill retained a trucking expert, who overcame the significant hurdle of convincing a three-judge panel that defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injury and not plaintiff himself.

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