Teamwork Insulates ADM Client from $12 million Exposure

Sometimes it takes a team of ADM lawyers to achieve a successful result at trial.  Such was the case when John Gillespie and Deborah DelSordo,  partners in our New York office, successfully insulated their client from a $12,059,661.00 verdict in a matter tried over nine weeks in the Supreme Court, New York County.  The case combined elements of automobile liability and Labor Law and is very significant since it is one of the few cases of record involving the responsibility of a consulting engineer in connection with roadwork construction.

The plaintiff, a foreman for a road construction company hired by the State of New York, was struck by a motor vehicle while standing on a sidewalk performing an inspection of the construction work zone.  John and Debbie represented the consultant inspector/engineer hired by the New York State Department of Transportation to ensure the contractors performed their work pursuant to plans and specifications. 

Following the accident the plaintiff, a union road construction worker, was taken via helicopter to Stony Brook Hospital.  He sustained 16 fractures, including a comminuted fracture to his tibia/fibula which required the insertion of a rod, ankle fracture, multiple facial fractures, fractures to several ribs and a hand injury.  He underwent six surgeries over the course of five years.  A seventh ankle surgery was postponed due to the trial. It is anticipated that he will  need another two, possibly three additional surgeries.  He never returned to work after the accident.

Plaintiff alleged causes of action sounding in negligence, Labor Law 200 and 241(6) against the consultant/engineer.  ADM commenced a third-party action against the plaintiff’s employer for contractual indemnification based upon the indemnity clause in the employer’s contract with the State of New York.

Plaintiff alleged that our client directed and controlled the work and further that the traffic lane adjacent to the sidewalk should have been kept closed while the inspection and on site meeting took place.  After the examination of 30 witnesses, defendants argued at closing that the Federal and State guidelines did not require closing the adjacent traffic lane for a sidewalk meeting and inspection.  Defendants also argued that the sole proximate cause of the accident was driver error and that closing the adjacent traffic lane would not have prevented bizarre driver error or the accident.

Although the jury awarded total damages exceeding $12 million, it found that neither our client’s negligence or violation of Labor Law Section 200 was a substantial cause of the accident, and also dismissed the Labor Law 241(6) claim.  Our client thus had no liability, and we further filed an application seeking defense costs from the third-party defendant.