$5 Million Settlement - Staten Island Construction Worker Killed When Trench Walls Collapse

Construction Worker Wrongful Death

Clifford Shapiro and Kenneth Halperin worked together to obtain a $5,000,000.00 settlement for the family of a construction worker who was killed while working in a trench at a construction site on Staten Island. The decedent left a wife, and five children three (3) of who were under the age of 14.

At the time of the accident the worker was inside an approximately 10-12 foot deep trench. The trench walls were not shored in any way and while the worker was in the trench, it collapsed burying him underneath a mountain of dirt where he died. The general contractor pled guilty to various crimes for knowingly failing to properly shore the walls of the trench to prevent this type of collapse.

The trench was dug on a New York City roadway, so that the contractor could connect pipes underneath the roadway to an adjacent housing development that was under construction. The problem that we faced in bringing our Labor Law claims in this case was that the decedent was employed by the general contractor, who was also the owner of the land that the houses were being constructed on. Thus we were barred by the Worker=s Compensation laws from bringing a cause of action against them.

In light of this, Ken Halperin, proceeded with a case against the City of New York because the trench was dug on the City street, which was owned by the City of New York. Before depositions, Ken made a brilliant strategic move to immediately seek summary judgment against the City of New York based on documentary evidence already obtained and the affidavit of a construction safety expert that we retained very early in the case. The City also moved to have the case against them dismissed arguing that they could not be held responsible for the accident since all they did was issue a permit for the opening of the roadway where the trench was dug. The law on this issue was unsettled. Ken successfully convinced the Court to grant summary judgment against the City of New York pursuant to Labor Law Sect. 241(6) without the City being able to disavow the documentary evidence, Ken then also successfully defended motions to overturn this decision by the City of New York and plaintiff's employer, who was a third-party defendant, to re-argue on the basis of newly discovered evidence which the Court found was not newly discovered.

Clifford Shapiro then conducted lengthy and complicated negotiations with attorneys for the City of New York and was able to extract a large settlement for the family who are all here without legal documentation. Despite that fact, the law recognizes their right to recover in a personal injury case.

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