Lever & Ecker, PLLC January 8, 2016 Construction Accidents
A jury in Manhattan has awarded $96 million to two families whose loved ones died in a horrific crane accident in 2008.
The day of the accident was clear and bright. The operator of the Kodiak crane, Donald Leo Jr., was inside of it doing work on the Upper East Side when a bearing on the machine failed and the crane cracked and then collapsed. Both he and the crane fell 240 feet before hitting the ground.
Below, several co-workers were doing their jobs. One man, Ramadan Kurtaj, noticed the heavy machinery hurtling towards the ground and started screaming “Run!”. He did his best to move out of the way but was crushed under the crane.
Leo died upon impact and Kurtaj died later that day in a nearby hospital.
The families of the two men filed complaints against James Lomma and his company, which owned the crane.
They claimed that the accident occurred because Lomma was more concerned with saving money than he was with keeping construction workers safe. The allegations indicated that the collapse occurred because repairs had been made to the crane with poor materials from China. The families believe that this decision was made because Lomma wanted the job done quickly instead of correctly. They also claimed that the man he placed in charge of the crane’s operation was not properly trained for the position, saying that he was an immigrant with only an eighth grade education and no formal certification.
The plaintiffs were seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and economic losses.
The trial was the longest one in the history of the Manhattan Supreme Court. Over 60 witnesses testified in court about the accident.
In the end, the jury awarded a total of $48 million dollars in economic damages and $48 million in punitive damages. Leo’s family was awarded $15.5 million dollars for the trauma that he suffered before he died as he fell and $500,000 for funeral expenses and economic losses. Kurtaj’s family was awarded $24 million for the pain and suffering he experienced before he passed away, $7.5 million for his emotional distress prior to death, and $600,000 for the loss of his future earnings.
The majority of construction accidents occur because of someone’s negligence. Property owners, contractors,
subcontractors, architects, engineers, managers, and even the manufacturers of machinery can all be held liable.
Negligence means that someone failed to act in the way that a reasonable person would have and should have given a certain situation. What is reasonable changes from location to location because no two construction sites are the same, just as no two accidents are exactly the same. Sadly, it seems that in many cases negligent decisions are made in order to cut corners and save time and money.
Punitive damages are not available in every personal injury or wrongful death claim. When awarded, the intent is to punish the defendant for their poor decisions and actions which resulted in harm to the plaintiffs and their loved ones.
The punitive damages awarded in this case have certainly punished James Lomma, the self titled “King of Cranes”. It has been reported that since the verdict he has filed for bankruptcy and has begun to move assets into a new construction company that was set up under his daughter’s name – despite the fact that his daughter is in cosmetics sales.
The legal representatives for both plaintiffs have filed liens on bank accounts and brokerage accounts to prevent him from moving any more assets out of his name.