July 24, 2014
Crane Collapses that Injure, Kill Construction Workers Are an Unfortunate Reality
By Jonathan Damashek
The wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a fatal collapse of a tower crane at a Manhattan high rise demonstrates key facets of construction site hazards.
In May 2008, the cab of a 200-foot crane snapped off and plummeted to the ground, killing the cab operator and a worker at ground level. The tragic incident led to a criminal case against the crane owner for manslaughter.
However, a judge in the non-jury case acquitted the crane owner, apparently not persuaded by the prosecutor’s argument that the owner had authorized and approved a cheap, shoddy welding repair job to a critical component of the crane allowing the cab to break away and fall.
The families of the two construction workers are now pursuing wrongful death claims against the crane owner, James Lomma, and his company, New York Crane and Equipment, based on much of the same evidence concerning the quality of the welding repair job and whether it met industry safety standards.
The key difference between a civil and criminal case is that the burden of proof in a civil case is significantly less demanding than in a criminal case.
In addition, blame can be spread among multiple parties in a civil case.
The trial judge has delayed the wrongful death trial against Lomma and his company until Sept. 9 due to Lomma being unable to attend the trial because of multiple fractures he suffered in a recent motor vehicle accident.
Fatalities and injuries resulting from crane accidents are an unfortunate reality. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 632 individuals died from crane accidents across the country between 1992 and 2006, an average of 42 per year.
Deaths and injuries in crane-related accidents occur for a variety of reasons, such as striking overhead power lines, being struck by a crane load or other crane parts, a collapsing crane, falling from a crane, or being caught in between moving parts.
Causes of construction site crane accidents include:
- Snapped crane cable
- Broken rigging stabilizers
- Inadequate maintenance of equipment and parts
- Inadequate replacement of parts
- Improper inspection of safety repairs and equipment
- Faulty erection of crane
- Overloading crane
- Uneven, unstable or icy surface (mobile cranes)
- Operating too close to electrical power lines
When crane owners cut corners on safety, they create unnecessary dangers for crane operators and other construction site workers – including laborers, sheet metal workers, mechanics, welders, electrical workers, and carpenters.
While workers’ compensation provides benefits for job-related injuries, the benefits do not cover injuries caused by the carelessness of third parties.
Multiple companies, contractors and workers are involved at construction sites at any given time, and they may cause injuries to workers. The law protects the rights of injured workers to seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering from negligent third parties.
If you have suffered injuries because of a crane accident at a construction site, contact our New York City construction accident lawyers for more information about your legal options.