Construction Worker Recovers For Chronic Pain And Post-concussion Syndrome ($1.838 Million)

Nobody had believed an injured construction worker had chronic neck pain and Post-Concussion Syndrome.

Valerie Barich and Michael Wierzbicki, two lawyers from Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd., did believe the construction worker. After a week of extensive evidence and testimony, justice prevailed. The worker was awarded a $1.8 million jury verdict.

The Case

At age fifty-three, a self-employed maintenance contractor was injured after walking into a doorway overhang that was lower than standards allowed. Afterward, he stopped working and complained of neck pain, headaches and dizziness. For eight years, with no income and no means to pay for office visits and medication, he rarely sought treatment from a physician.

In-Depth Look

Holiday Retirement Corporation, offered $50,000 to settle his claim.  During trial, the opposing counsel increased the offer to $145,000 ignoring the costs of losing his career. Two medical experts hired by the defendant testified that the maintenance worker did not suffer from an injury and that his symptoms were due to age, sinus infection, and other natural progressions of getting older.

Valerie Barich and Michael Wierzbicki elected to try the case by jury. On Friday, January 20th, a Cook County jury rendered a verdict on behalf of the worker for pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and lost wages.

But when the maintenance worker suffered an acute head injury due to a known hazard by the company who hired him, the result was chronic neck pain and post-concussive syndrome, as well as the loss of his company and a life permanently fractured.

Seeking compensation for a preventable injury caused by the negligence of someone else is difficult enough, but when your injuries are complex, including a difficult to diagnose, mild brain injury with transient neurological spasms and chronic neck pain that cannot be identified by means of common medical technologies, such as x-rays, MRI’s or a CT scan, your case becomes profoundly difficult.

Many law firms would have declined to represent this Plaintiff, in part because the standard medical tests taken were normal. Attorneys, Valerie Barich and Michael Wierzbicki, believed in their client’s legitimate right to compensation, his honest struggle to work while enduring eight years of pain and suffering, and the sequel of post-concussive syndrome.

The maintenance worker had been hired by Holiday to inspect and repair rooftop damages following severe storm weather at a building located in Joliet.  Holiday had contracted his services on a regular basis, spanning retirement properties in several states prompting his relocation to the state of Kentucky.

Access to the rooftop was provided for by the company’s regional maintenance manager, who led the worker up a dimly-lit stairwell to a doorway above. With his advancing view skewed by the maintenance manager’s body, the worker followed closely and upon arriving at the doorway to the outside, noticed a 7.5-inch rain-cap (threshold) at the bottom of the door frame. He took caution to step over the high threshold below him, but he was not aware of the door frame’s low clearance and hit the frame in full force with his skull. After recovering from a loss of consciousness, he declined medical care and drove home, a four-and-a-half-hour drive that took him over eleven hours. He did not remember this drive.

The following day the maintenance worker sought care in the emergency room. X-rays and a CT of his skull were negative, although the sinus cavity had filled with fluid, presumed by the ER physician to be a simple cold, but later related by a physician as most likely cerebral (brain) fluid from trauma. The fluid was felt to be responsible for his complaints of severe pain and water pressure behind his eyes and ears. An infection had set in. Over the span of the next nine months, he sought additional treatment for acute spasms in his back and neck, causing pain and in his head and face.

Doctors could not pinpoint the source of his continued and worsening symptoms. Soon he was unable to afford further medical care and gave up, attempting to return to work out of necessity, but was unable to meet the physical demands. Eventually, he lost his company and although he attempted to secure occasional contracts, the pain he endured without proper treatment and medication prevented him from completing his jobs.

Holiday’s attorneys argued during trial that the contractor should bear a majority of responsibility for not watching where he was going; that the lack of a posted warning regarding the danger by signage or painted caution should not be a primary consideration. Nor did they feel the jury should hold them liable for a door size that did not meet code standards in height. The building code for Joliet requires a door height minimum of 80 inches; however, the door in question was only 65 inches in height, 58 inches when measured from the raised threshold.

The facilities manager testified that he had also hit his head on the door’s frame six to twelve times and had seen others hit their head as well, yet he did nothing to remedy the situation, or warn of its existence.

Holiday’s attorney’s also argued that the low balance of medical bills incurred and the contractor’s return to work after nine months proved an absence of serious injury and should, therefore, reduce any compensation amount. Attorney’s Valerie Barich and Michael Wierzbicki proved that their client’s lack of ability to pay for services resulted in low medical bills, not a lack of need. Furthermore, witnesses testified that he was a man with a reputation of honest, diligent work ethics; one who was always the first man on the job and the last to leave. “This is a man who would give up every penny just to be able to have his life, health, and company back,” says Wierzbicki, adding, “He just wants to be free of pain and work again.”