These are three consolidated cases of employees who were all injured while they were performing tasks directly related to their employment. The only question raised in these cases is whether or not the employees here have suffered grave injury; that is, whether they suffered a brain injurythat results in permanent total disability. The question of what can be considered a permanent total disability has to be defined.
In the first case a Bronx ironworker fell about 19 feet to the ground. He was standing on a ladder installing a steel cupola. He was an employee of an iron works company which was then rendering iron works for a night club. The ironworker hit his head and sustained a brain injury.
He filed a suit in damages under the Worker’s Compensation Law against his employer, iron works company and the night club which hired the iron works company.
After the presentation of evidence the trial court charged the jury that they can only award damages if they find that the iron worker sustained a grave injury. A grave injury means that the iron worker can no longer be employed and that he is unable to perform the common everyday tasks of day-to-day living.
The jury found the iron worker to have sustained a grave injury and awarded him the sum of $3.2 million. On appeal by the iron works company, the Appellate Division found that the iron worker did not suffer a grave injury because he is still able to perform common everyday tasts.
In the second case, a couple hired a general contractor to renovate their house. The general contractor hired a roof installer to remove and replace the shingles on the couple’s roof. The house was six-stories high and the roof installer fell from the roof as he was removing shingles. He sued the Brooklyn general contractor and the couple who owned the house.
The general contractor moved for summary judgment asking that the complaint against it for Worker’s Compensation be dismissed. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment. It held that the evidence raised material issues of fact. The general contractor appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the denial of the motion for summary judgment. The Appellate Division held that the injuries sustained by the roof installer were not grave injuries as these are defined by the Worker’s Compensation.
The third case is about an electrician who was working for a contractor. He fell 17 feet while he was on a ladder installing electrical connections. After the presentation of evidence the trial court charged the jury that a finding of permanent total disability means that a person can no longer be employed but it does not mean that a person has lost the ability to perform common day-to-day tasks. The jury found that the electrician suffered permanent total disability as a result of his brain injury and awarded him $11 million.
The Court noted that all these three cases were decided on appeal by different departments of the Appellate Division interpreting the same law. To synchronize and harmonize the decisions, the Court held that the legislature enacted the worker’s compensation law so that employers who provide for worker’s compensation shall be immune from liability for damages except for grave injuries.
Grave injuries were meticulously and narrowly defined and enumerated in the law. The list of injuries shows that those grave injuries do not prevent the employee from performing common daily tasks but it does impair his employability. Among the grave injuries listed is a brain injury that results in a permanent total disability. The crux of the matter is the precise definition of what permanent total disability means. Two definitions have so far been made: the first is brain injury that results in permanent total disability from being employed in the customary employment; the second is brain injury that results in permanent total disability not only from being employed but also in performing the common daily tasks of life.
The Court held that within the context of the Worker’s Compensation Law, the word ‘disability’ usually refers to inability to work; inability to earn full wages at work that the employee used to be employed.
The grave injuries, therefore, the Court held, must be those injuries which will prevent the employee from being hired in any capacity. His inability to perform daily tasks is irrelevant to the consideration of whether or not it is a permanent total disability.
To successfully sue for damages arising from brain injury due to an accident in the workplace, a New York City Injury Lawyer must be able to present the facts: exactly what happened. A New York Injury Attorney must be able to bring to court all parties who have an obligation to ensure the reasonable safety of the employees. An NYC Injury attorney must also be able to present proof that the brain injury sustained by the employee resulted in permanent total disability. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today, speak with any of their NY Injury lawyers. They are willing to represent you.