Firm Partner Michael Paglione recently settled a case for $828,000 against several defendants on behalf of a commercial plumber who suffered a workplace injury at a construction site. Principal defendants Penn Valley Constructors Inc. and Michael Haas Construction contributed $380,000 each to the settlement and several other defendants participated in the payment of $68,000 on a workers compensation claim.
Michael was initially contacted when his client was out of work due to a foot injury sustained when he stepped on a drywall screw at a job site. Michael filed a worker’s compensation claim and began investigating how the injury occurred. He learned that his client injured his foot due in part to hazardous workplace conditions. He also learned that his client was a diabetic. Michael knew that diabetics are particularly susceptible to a lack of feeling in their feet, a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy is nerve damage and can be caused by a prolonged exposure to high blood glucose. Symptoms are often minor at first and progress gradually without the patient ever being aware.
Our client was working at a new commercial construction site. As a commercial plumber he worked closely with the drywall subcontractors, installing the plumbing before the walls would be closed up. Unfortunately, the subcontractors were negligent in their clean up and constantly left the work site full of debris, including pieces of metal studs, drywall and 1-1/4 inch long drywall screws. The plaintiff had regularly complained to the general contractor about the unsafe conditions to no avail. A construction expert, hired on behalf of the plaintiff, opined that both contractors violated numerous BOCA and OSHA code provisions.
One day the plumber was walking through the debris and stepped on a screw which pierced the sole of his work boot and became imbedded in the bottom of his foot. Because of his diabetic neuropathy, he did not feel the screw in his foot and continued to work for several hours. It was not until he got home and removed his boot that he saw a considerable amount of blood and knew the wound was serious.
To complicate matters, the plaintiff’s past medical records indicated that his family physician had diagnosed him with diabetes and prescribed medication for the condition some three years prior to this incident. The plumber denied ever having been told he was diabetic. The dry wall subcontractor and general contractor defended the action asserting that had the client been compliant and taken his medications, the peripheral neuropathy would have resolved and the plumber would have felt the screw when it first penetrated his foot, never allowing the wound to become so serious.
Working diligently with medical experts, Michael was able to convincingly argue that the damage to the plumber’s foot was caused in large part by the adhesive used to bind the sole of the boot to the leather upper. As the screw penetrated through the boot, it became contaminated from bacteria in the adhesive, causing the infection which ultimately led to the partial amputation of the plaintiff’s foot. In other words, the plumber would have suffered the same outcome whether he was a diabetic or not. Michael was able to secure a significant settlement for our client as the result of hard work and the insights provided by construction and medical experts.