• back – fusion, lumbar; nerve impingement; spondylolisthesis; herniated disc, lumbar; herniated disc at L4-5; herniated disc, lumbar; herniated disc at L5-S1
  • head – headaches; fracture, skull
  • knee – medial meniscus, tear; lateral meniscus, tear; chondromalacia / chondromalacia patella • neck – nerve impingement; spondylolisthesis
  • other – hematoma; facetectomy; avulsion fracture; comminuted fracture; epidural injections; cortisone injections; reconstructive surgery
  • wrist – fracture, wrist; fracture, triquetral bone; carpal tunnel syndrome; triangular fibrocartilage complex, torn
  • dental – fracture, tooth
  • face/nose – fracture, facial bone; fracture, orbit
  • neurological – radiculopathy; nerve impingement
  • surgeries/treatment – discectomy; arthroscopy; laminectomy; laminectomy, lumbar; knee surgery; open reduction; internal fixation; decompression surgery

Case Type:

  • Workplace – Workplace Safety
  • Slips, Trips & Falls – Fall from Height
  • Worker/Workplace Negligence – Labor Law

Facts:

On Feb. 25, 2015, plaintiff Rigoberto Martinez-Gonzalez, a laborer in his 30s, worked at a
renovation site that was located at 56 W. 75th St., in Manhattan. Martinez-Gonzalez was
taping a ceiling. During the course of that task, he fell off of a scaffold. He plummeted a
distance of some six feet, and he landed on a floor. He claimed that he suffered injuries of
his back, his face, his head, a knee, his neck, a tooth and a wrist.

Martinez-Gonzalez sued the premises’ owner, 56 West 75th Street, LLC; the renovation
project’s general contractor, Brusco Contracting Corp.; and a plumber that was involved in
the project, Vin-Ray Plumbing & Heating Inc. The lawsuit alleged that Vin-Ray Plumbing
& Heating negligently created a dangerous condition that contributed to the accident. The
lawsuit also alleged that the remaining defendants negligently failed to provide a safe
workplace, and it further alleged that their failure constituted a violation of the New York
State Labor Law.

Brusco Contracting and 56 West 75th Street impleaded Martinez-Gonzalez’s employer,
Pearl Renovations Inc. Brusco Contracting and 56 West 75th Street alleged that Pearl
Renovations provided the scaffold that Martinez-Gonzalez was utilizing, that the device
was defective, and that the defect caused Martinez-Gonzalez’s fall. They sought
indemnification, and indemnification was ultimately granted via summary judgment.
Plaintiff’s counsel discontinued the claim against Vin-Ray Plumbing & Heating. The
matter proceeded against the remaining defendants.

Martinez-Gonzalez claimed that his fall was a result of one of the scaffold’s legs having
fallen through a wooden floor. He claimed that he was propelled off of the scaffold.
Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that the floor was rotten and therefore unstable, and he
contended that Martinez-Gonzalez should not have been permitted to work in the area.
Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that the incident stemmed from an elevation-related hazard, as
defined by Labor Law § 240(1), and that Martinez-Gonzalez was not provided the proper,
safe equipment that is a requirement of the statute.

Counsel of Brusco Contracting and 56 West 75th Street contended that the scaffold was
unsafe, in that its work platform lacked a protective railing.

Injury:

Martinez-Gonzalez was retrieved by an ambulance, and he was transported to a hospital.
Doctors determined that he was suffering a comminuted fracture of his skull’s left orbit,
which is the socket of the left eye, a hematoma of his scalp and a fracture of a wisdom
tooth, tooth No. 8. Martinez-Gonzalez claimed that he also suffered herniations of his L4-
5 and L5-S1 intervertebral discs, a tear of his left knee’s lateral meniscus, a tear of the
same knee’s medial meniscus, a tear of his left, nondominant wrist’s triangular
fibrocartilage complex, and an avulsion fracture of the same wrist’s triquetrum, which is
one of the tiny bones that are located between the palm’s heel and the distal ends of the
forearm’s radius and ulna bones. An avulsion fracture generally involves a chip of a bone.
Martinez-Gonzalez claimed that his L4-5 disc caused impingement of a spinal nerve and
resultant radiculopathy, that his left wrist developed carpal tunnel syndrome, that his left
knee developed chondromalacia, which involves softening of cartilage, and that his spine’s

injury also caused spondylolisthesis, which involves displacement of a vertebra. He
further claimed that he suffered severe residual headaches.
Martinez-Gonzalez immediately underwent surgical reconstruction of his left orbit. The

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Injury:

procedure included open reduction of the fracture, the internal fixation of hardware and a
canthotomy, which involved relocation of a tendon, to relieve intra-orbital pressure.
During the ensuing 10 months, Martinez-Gonzalez underwent administration of a total of
two injections of cortisone, which was intended to relieve symptoms related to his carpal
tunnel syndrome.

On June 17, 2016, Martinez-Gonzalez was administered an epidural injection of a steroid-
based painkiller.

On May 20, 2016, Martinez-Gonzalez underwent arthroscopic surgery that addressed his
left wrist.

On Sept. 2, 2016, Martinez-Gonzalez underwent arthroscopic surgery that addressed his
left knee.

On Feb. 1, 2017, Martinez-Gonzalez underwent surgery that addressed his spine’s L4-5
level. The procedure included a discectomy, which involved excision of his L4-5 disc; a
facetectomy, which involved decompression of the root of a spinal nerve; a laminectomy,
which involved excision of a portion of a vertebra; and fusion of the L4-5 level.
Martinez-Gonzalez claimed that he suffers residual pain and limitations that prevent his
performance of any type of work. He has not worked since the accident. He also claimed
that he may require partial or total replacement of his left knee, and he further claimed
that his damaged tooth requires restorative treatment that could include endodontic
therapy, which is commonly termed “root canal.”

Martinez-Gonzalez sought recovery of $1,702,458 for future medical expenses, $83,286
for past lost earnings, $495,748 for future loss of earnings, and unspecified damages for
past and future pain and suffering. The defense claimed that some nine months passed before Martinez-Gonzalez reported

that his lumbar region was painful, and the defense therefore contended that Martinez-
Gonzalez’s herniated discs were not related to the accident. The defense further claimed

that Martinez-Gonzalez’s left knee’s injuries were not related to the accident. The defense
also contended that Martinez-Gonzalez achieved a good recovery and can resume work.
Result: Plaintiff’s counsel moved for summary judgment of the direct defendants’ liability, and the motion was granted. The parties subsequently negotiated a settlement. Brusco
Contracting’s insurer tendered its policy, which provided $1 million of coverage; 56 West
75th Street’s insurer tendered its policy, which provided $1 million of coverage; and Pearl
Renovations’ insurer tendered its policy, which provided $1 million of coverage. Thus, the
settlement totaled $3 million.