Partner Frank Lombardo Obtains a $11.76 Million Verdict for Single-Level Lumbar Fusion

$11,756,810.00 verdict for personal injuries sustained as a result of a Labor Law construction accident.

Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, partner Frank J. Lombardo obtained an $11.76 million verdict in Queens County for a Union Local No. 1 journeyman plumber. On August 19, 2015, the plaintiff was installing drainage piping to a water pump in the mechanical room at 30 Rockefeller Center when he was struck by a falling 4-inch copper pipe, weighing approximately 20 pounds, and a 30-40-pound bucket of tools.

Prior to trial, Frank was successful in obtaining summary judgment pursuant to Labor Law §240 (1) due to the defendants’ failure to properly secure the materials and equipment that fell from a height. It was alleged that as a result of being struck by the unsecured falling objects, the plaintiff sustained a herniated disc at the L3-4 level with nerve root entrapment requiring a lumbar laminectomy and discectomy, posterolateral fusion, and segmental pedicle fixation. In addition, the plaintiff also sustained a left-knee injury, requiring a surgery to remove inflammation and scar tissue.

Despite being found responsible for the accident, the defendants’ insurer refused to settle the case and never offered more than one million dollars during trial. The defendants’ attorney argued that the plaintiff had four prior motor vehicle accidents all involving injuries to the lumbar spine. In addition, the defendants argued that the plaintiff was found totally disabled prior to this accident by his chiropractor who treated him for three years. During the entire trial, Frank contended that that the prior motor vehicle accidents merely involved soft tissue muscle sprains and strains without herniations or radicular symptoms down the left leg, and the plaintiff did not lose any time from work as a result of the four prior accidents.

Through testimony from the client’s treating orthopedic surgeon, pain management physician, and prior treating chiropractor, and by cross-examination of the defendants’ orthopedic and radiological experts, Frank was able to demonstrate that the client’s previous medical condition was not similar to that which he sustained at 30 Rockefeller Center. Frank was also able to show by the use of prior and subsequent diagnostic films and the testimony of an expert neuroradiologist that the plaintiff did not have a prior L3-4 herniation with nerve root entrapment. Summarily, Frank was successful in showing to the jury, by expert testimony and cross examination of the defendants’ own witnesses, that the plaintiff sustained a new herniated disc with nerve root impingement causing radicular symptoms.

Frank had experts in the fields of vocational rehabilitation, life-care planning, and an economist to convince the jury that due to the plaintiff’s chronic pain, he was unable to continue his employment as a journeyman plumber, and he would have future loss of earnings and the cost of his future medical care. Additionally, Frank brought in evidence - one example was the pipe, so jurors could see and feel what the plaintiff might’ve felt.

The jury deliberated for one hour and 20 minutes and rendered a unanimous verdict, awarding our client $100,000 for past pain and suffering and $8 million for future pain and suffering (37 years); $200,000 for past lost earnings, $600,000 for future lost earnings (20 years); and $1,500,000 for future medical expenses (37 years). In addition, the jury awarded the client’s wife $500,000 for past loss of services and $800,000 for future loss of services (10 years) Lastly, prior to the close of trial, the defendants stipulated to the cost of prior medical expenses being $56,810.00.

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