Brian Ward and Mila Ward v. Aurobindo Pharma USA Inc., Aurolife Pharma LLC, MWK and Company, New Jersey Boom and Erectors Inc., Tri-Steel Fabricators Inc. and Fania Roofing Company Inc.
Type of Injury
PELVIS AND LUMBAR FRACTURES, BROKEN RIBS
Middlesex County, New Jersey
The parties settled before trial, for $5.35 million.
Aurolife Pharma paid $4 million, MWK & Co. paid $850,000 and Tri-Steel Fabricators paid $500,000. None of the companies paid their full insurance policy limits.
On Sept. 3, 2014, plaintiff Brian Ward, 57, a construction foreman, was working in a building in Dayton.
The building was owned by New Jersey-based pharmaceuticals company Aurolife Pharma, LLC, which was converting it from office space to a drug-blending facility.
Ward was installing industrial equipment when he fell through an unguarded, 6-by-6 foot hole in a floor, plunging 16 to 20 feet to the floor below. He claimed injuries to his back, head, pelvis, ribs and left foot.
Ward sued Aurolife Pharma, general contractor MWK & Co. and subcontractor Tri-Steel Fabricators, alleging negligent maintenance that created a dangerous condition. He had also sued Aurolife Pharma’s parent company, Aurobindo Pharma USA Inc., and subcontractors New Jersey Boom & Erectors and Fania Roofing Co. However, they were all dismissed.
Ward’s employer, Nashua Brothers Pipefitters, was not a party because Ward had workers’ compensation, but the company was cited for a “serious violation” by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration for not providing Ward with a safety harness. MWK & Co. also was cited by OSHA for a “serious violation” for not providing Ward with a harness.
Ward claimed that he was not provided any safety equipment at the job site and that Aurolife and MWK & Co. were responsible for worker safety in the building. The companies should have ensured that workers were equipped with and using harnesses.
Ward also argued that, while the hole had been cut three months earlier, on the day before his accident Tri-Steel had cut the hole larger without posting notices near it or blocking it off in any way. An expert in construction safety for Ward concluded in a report that the hole should have been guarded in some manner.
Aurolife Pharma and MWK & Co. shifted blame to each other and claimed Ward was comparatively negligent. MWK & Co. contended that Aurolife was liable, because it had a safety manager on-site responsible for the entire area.
Tri-Steel, however, claimed it had instructed an employee of MWK & Co. to cover the hole.
An expert engineer for the defense opined that Ward was an experienced foreman and construction worker, with about 30 years in the business, and he should have known the risks and made sure he was wearing a harness and using other safety equipment.
In addition, the defense counsel argued, Ward had been in the area of the hole at least 10 times and knew of its presence.