Injured Worker Receives Justice

When a hard-working man or woman is badly injured due to a contractor's negligence, juries often respond with righteous indignation on behalf of the worker. A prime example was the verdict last week by a New Jersey jury awarding six million dollars to a construction worker, Silvano Santos, whose wrist was shattered when he fell from a platform through a hole cut for stairs and landed on concrete below. Mr. Santos' lawyer produced evidence that the defendant general contractor was responsible for safety at the work site, and that safety conditions were deplorable. The contractor blamed Mr. Santos' employer. Had that defense worked, he would have been able to recover only workers compensation benefits. An open hole leading to a significant drop, with no safety devices such as a harness, violates OSHA regulations. Construction site falls are a leading cause of workplace deaths and catastrophic injury. The contractor further violated OSHA regulations by failing to report the accident. The conventional wisdom might be that six million dollars is an unexpectedly large award for a damaged wrist. The jury, however, accepted the evidence that Mr. Santos' earning capacity was seriously diminished. The jurors were undoubtedly sending a loud message to the defendant, and other, contractors.

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