Tile Setter Tripped Over Ladder Injuring Lower Back ($1.5 Million)

A Local 1185 Union Tile Setter recovered a favorable settlement with UBM Construction. The tile setter, “Jack,” was injured when he tripped over a ladder and fell down a flight of stairs while working at Hilliard School.

The Case

Jack went to the school during after school hours to lay some tile in the furnace room. As he opened the furnace room door, he tripped over a ladder that had been left there and fell.

Jack, who works out of Local 1185 of the Carpenters Union, did not immediately report the injury. He was the only one at the school at the time of his injury. Five days after the incident, his pain worsened and he went to a physician.

The pain grew worse over time and doctors eventually determined that Jack had a congenital defect in his back, spondylolisthesis, and spondylolysis.  Jack had never experienced this sort of back pain prior to the incident. As a result of the fall, Jack’s back condition became debilitating. He lost his construction career and had to undergo a back fusion operation.

In-Depth Look

“This was a tough four-year battle,” Clifford Horwitz said.

UBM Construction, the general contractor at the school, denied the claim, arguing that there were no witnesses to the accident and no one else had seen the ladder Jack tripped on. The company noted that Jack had not reported the accident until five days later, indicating that the injury could not have been severe.

UBM hired a medical expert who claimed that the accident did not lead to the fusion and testified that Jack was exaggerating his injuries.

Jack’s attorney, Clifford Horwitz, argued that the physicians who treated Jack were more credible than the company’s highly-paid “hired gun.” Further, Horwitz noted that the general contractor is required, by law, to maintain safe entrance-ways to job sites.

UBM called three employees to testify that the accident couldn’t have happened because the door Jack used had been permanently bolted shut. However, Horwitz found former employees of UBM and other contractors on the site as well as former Hilliard School employees who testified that the door had not, in fact, been bolted shut.

Rather, the door was an old rundown wooden door with a broken lock that was held closed by a ladder. Horwitz also identified former UBM employees who testified that they brought materials to the site after the accident in order to bolt the door shut to prevent future accidents like the one Jack experienced.

UBM argued that Jack should have seen the ladder. Additionally, UBM’s liability expert, Eugene Holland, explained that, based on the physical dimensions of the ladder and the doorway, the accident was impossible.

Horwitz stated that he had just faced this same witness, Eugene Holland, in another case. The jury, in that case, had not believed Holland because everything he said was slanted in favor of the contractor.

“We were very concerned when the Defendant brought in those three UBM employees to testify that the door had been permanently bolted closed. Thankfully, we were able to find other persons to contradict those deceitful statements.”