$1,750,000 :: Gonzales

SETTLEMENT : Fall through roof

On December 1998, John Doe, 51, was working as a general construction laborer at a central California prison site when he became the victim of a trip-and-fall accident. Doe was assigned to the roof a prison-housing unit where during the course of his duties he fell through an unprotected opening. He dropped 22 feet, landing on a concrete slab. Although he landed on his feet, he fell backwards from the impact and struck his head.

John Doe’s Injuries Resulting From the Construction Fall

Doe had been wearing a hard hat at the time of the incident, but the impact caused a significant brain injury. At the hospital, doctors diagnosed him with a closed-head diffuse brain injury, a compression fracture in the lumbar spine, and a calcaneal fracture in his foot. These injuries required extended hospitalization and rehabilitation and left Doe with long-term residual symptoms including short-term memory loss, frontal lobe damage, and cognitive dysfunction.

Finding Fault & Financial Responsibility

John Doe hired Richard B. Koskoff of Booth & Koskoff to represent him in a lawsuit against his employer. The plaintiff team sought out financial compensation for past medicals amounting to $237,000, future medicals amounting to $400,000, past lost wages amounting to $40,000, and future lost wages amounting to $60,000.

According to witnesses and the employer’s own accounts, John Doe’s employer knew of the falling risk. The roofs for the construction project were to be assembled with prefabricated units designed to, upon completion, form a cohesive pattern outfitted with the necessary openings for HVAC equipment and skylights. However, until these fixtures could be installed, John Doe’s employer, the roofing subcontractor, opted to use plywood to cover the openings as employees worked on a specific roof. The subcontractor planned to move the plywood as his crew moved from one roof to the next, however the general contractor instructed employees to keep plywood in place.

In response to this, John Doe’s employer ordered new plywood for the other buildings under construction at the work site. These new plywood sheets were delivered to the staging site but were not installed in the days leading up to the accident. Additionally, a half hour before the fall, the general contractor inspected the very roof Doe was sent to work on and had noted the uncovered openings. Reportedly, the general contractor had ordered work to be stopped until those openings were covered, yet John Doe was not made aware of the order.

The Settlement

Koskoff achieved an impressive $1.75 million settlement with the opposing party during a 2002 mediation meeting in Encino, California. The parties additionally agreed to the settlement of a workers’ compensation claim which included the opening of lifetime medical and disability benefits for John Doe.

Article [PDF]