Handyman Suffers Brain Injury and Herniated Neck and Back in Discs

Our client, employed as a handyman for the past twenty years in the building where the accident occurred, was injured when a valve wheel from the air conditioning system fell from approximately twelve feet above and struck him on the head. Plaintiff over-tightened the valve by turning the wheel in the wrong direction which caused a pin holding the wheel to snap.

Our client alleged he suffered a brain injury as well as herniated discs in his neck and back. The defendant disputed that there was a brain injury, as there were no objective tests which confirmed it, and plaintiff appeared to be able to function normally.

We could not sue the building owner because it was the plaintiff's employer. Instead, we brought a lawsuit against the management company and plumbing company for the building which installed the valve a year before the accident. There turned out to be no liability against the management company, and the plumbing company claimed that it was not liable because all it did was replace a valve that had been there previously. The firm helped bring the case to settlement by establishing during the defendant's deposition that the valve mechanism and pin holding it in place should not have broken if it was installed properly.

WRSMH attorney, Bill Hepner alleged that the plumbing company should have known better than to put a wheel up in the air without attaching a rope to catch it if it fell, as it was foreseeable that a valve could be over-tightened. Moreover, defendant increased the likelihood that the valve would be over-tightened because the installation was backwards in terms of the way the wheel would turn to open or close; even though it had been installed this way for over twenty years.

This was a difficult liability case under the law, and the injuries were largely a question of credibility. Bill Hepner had to convince the defendant that even though his client turned the wheel in the wrong direction, and even if the defendant simply replaced what was there before, a reasonable plumber would have gone beyond simply replacing what was there if it created a danger. The case settled at a mediation for $450,000.

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