Mr. Sitinas recently obtained the 8th largest mediated settlement in Federal Court and in the top 20 of all NY State Courts and the single largest non-medical malpractice settlement in the State of New York for 2015 on behalf of a 26 year old laborer who was severely injured when a bucket containing construction debris fell six-stories and struck our client. Miraculously, the construction worker survived. Tragically, he will never walk again as he is paralyzed from the navel down.
This story begins in Tribeca, where the owners of a six-story condominium hired a construction company to replace their roof. The construction company hired an Engineering Company to design a two-bay scaffold system, which was to be erected between this building and a neighboring building. One of the scaffold bays contained a staircase that connected the ground level to the roof. The adjacent bay was to be enclosed with mesh and include a chute, where debris would be thrown down and removed from the worksite. For larger items, a material hoist was supposed to have been mounted to an iron beam on the building’s roof. This material hoist was to have a 1200 lb lifting capacity.
On the first day of the project, as the old concrete roof was being ripped up, the construction company foreman realized that the material hoist was not functioning. Rather than seeking a new hoist or even renting such a hoist (which are readily available) the foreman for the construction company hastily decided that they would use a rope pulley system to lower buckets of construction debris down six stories. Of course, unlike a material hoist, there was nothing preventing a full bucket of materials from free-falling and crashing to the ground if anyone let go of the rope. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Our client, a 26 year-old man with absolutely no experience in the construction trade, was hired by this contractor to work as a Laborer at this jobsite. Upon arriving at the jobsite for his very first day of work, he received absolutely no training, no direction or supervision – in fact, he was not even provided with a hard hat or even work gloves. He was simply told that he and two other Laborers would be pulling a rope that would raise an empty bucket to the roof. Once there, the bucket would be filled with debris and then the three Laborers (who, in reality, were just three friends from Newark, NJ with no construction experience whatsoever) would slowly release the rope and allow the filled bucket to make its way down to the ground level. Once there, our client’s job was to empty the debris into small dumpsters with wheels and push those dumpsters to the sidewalk for removal by a carting company. Thereafter, these Laborers would pull the rope and hoist the empty bucket back up to the roof so the process could be repeated.
At one point, the foreman directed that there was no need for all three Laborers to do this work and that one of them should go up on the roof to help tear up the old materials. With just two Laborers on the ground level, this process became extremely more dangerous that it already was. Now, instead of three men holding the rope, there were only two.
Shortly thereafter, an extremely heavy bucket was released from the roof. Only one Laborer was holding the rope on the ground level and the bucket was simply too heavy for him. The rope either slipped out of his hands or was intentionally released, causing this heavy bucket of construction debris to free-fall from the roof.
Tragically, our 26 year old client was directly under this free-falling bucket and the results were catastrophic. The bucket hit our client, grazing his head but shattering his spine and breaking his arm.
Miraculously, our client survived this horrific accident, but at great expense. He would spend the next two-and-one-half months in the hospital and at an in-patient rehabilitation center. He was informed that not only was he paralyzed from the navel down, but that he would likely never walk again. He would require multiple surgeries to both stabilize his spine and to repair his broken right arm. More significantly, he would have to learn to care for himself while being confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. He had to come to terms with the fact that his life as he knew it, was essentially over. For the rest of his life, he will need medical care and be dependent on home health aides and others to care for him.
Mr. Sitinas filed suit against the Condominium and their managing agent. He also filed suit against the Engineering Company that designed the scaffold, but after realizing they were not liable for anything which may have caused this accident, he discontinued against them. The Condominium, in turn, sued the construction company – something the plaintiff could not do, as they were his employer and the Worker’s Compensation laws bar personal injury suits by employees against their employers.
After the completion of all depositions and the exchange of expert witness reports, the parties agreed to mediate this case. The parties agreed to employ the services of retired Justice Allen Hurkin-Torres, one of the most respected mediators in New York.
After nearly six hours of intense negotiations, Mr. Sitinas was not only able to secure a significant $15,000,000 settlement for his client but he also convinced the defendants to waive a Worker’s Compensation lien of approximately $390,000. If not waived, the client would have been responsible to pay back a significant portion of this $390,000 lien out of his own proceeds from the settlement. Most impressive of all, this substantial settlement was achieved in roughly one and one-half years; less, than half the average time for such cases.
Mr. Sitinas expertise in handling complex construction accident cases benefitted his client in a way that will financially protect the client for the rest of his life while obtaining fair and reasonable compensation for these life-altering injuries.
Our client, who was a college student at a well-known University, was badly burned by scalding water from her dormitory shower. The school knew that the student had a history of seizures and claimed to have placed her in a safe dormitory environment. Tragically, while showering, our client suffered a seizure and upon regaining consciousness, felt a burning sensation in her lower extremities. She called for an ambulance and was transported to a local area hospital. Once diagnosing the severity of her injuries, our client was transferred to another hospital’s burn unit where she remained for weeks, undergoing multiple surgeries including skin grafts. While she remained in the hospital, her parents returned to her dorm room and measured the water temperature to be 150 degrees. It is a violation of all applicable safety standards to have hot water exceed 110 degrees. Any person exposed to 150-degree water will suffer 3rd-degree burns in less than 3 seconds. During the discovery phase of the litigation, we were able to prove that the university had no formal and routine testing program in place for their hot water heaters. This matter was settled, with the help of a Mediator, shortly before the case was placed on the trial calendar.
Our office was retained by a 43-year-old construction worker who injured his lower back when he was forced to hoist heavy metal bars up the side of a 6-story building using nothing but rope and his hands. The building was being erected in Brooklyn and had several winch-hoists, however, when our client asked to use one of them for this task he was told they were all being used elsewhere at the job site. He was told he could either do as told or leave the project.
Our client, a member of Carpenter’s Union Local 1536 spent the remainder of that day hoisting the heavy metallic frames with brute strength alone. By the end of the day, he was in significant pain and unable to return to work ever again. He sustained injuries to his Lumbar Spine, necessitating a decompressive lumbar laminectomy with fusion surgery. He also underwent extensive pain management treatment, including steroid injections into his L4-5 disc space. He also underwent nerve root ablation, which involves burning the nerve root endings to deaden the pain.
The defendants agreed to mediate the matter, however, they tried to low-ball the case by offering only $750.000.00. We walked out and prepared for trial. Shortly before jury selection was to commence, the defendants asked that we return to mediation once again. This time, the defendants came with substantially more money and the matter settled for $3,000,000.00. This is one more example of our firm never settling for less than fair value.
Stavros E. Sitinas obtained a $2.8 million settlement during trial for a client who was involved in a three-car accident. The plaintiff was struck twice from behind in a rear-end collision involving two vehicles. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries to his neck, which resulted in nerve damage to both his arms as well as the middle finger on his left hand. The client also suffered from an aggravation of a preexisting, yet asymptomatic, degenerative condition in his neck that made him more susceptible to new injuries. Mr. Sitinas showed that, despite the extent of the plaintiff's preexisting degenerative spinal condition, the plaintiff lived a productive life, working full-time in a physically demanding occupation without any prior complaints of pain in his neck. Mr. Sitinas argued that while the plaintiff may have been more susceptible to a serious injury from an otherwise mild accident, the defendants were responsible for any medical conditions that developed after, and as a result of, the accident regardless of his increased susceptibility. The defendants agreed to settle shortly after the plaintiff's testimony and just prior to Mr. Sitinas putting forth his medical testimony.
Stavros Sitinas obtained a $2,235,000 settlement in favor of a 61 year-old construction worker who was injured at a job site at the Whitestone Bridge. The client, a land-surveyor, was run over by a truck that had just delivered building materials to a staging area under the bridge.
The plaintiff was kneeling down while setting up his surveying equipment when the truck pulled out of the staging area. Ordinarily, there would be spotters guiding the truck out of this loading area, however, because of record-low temperatures that day, the plaintiff believes that the spotters chose the warm cabin of the truck over standing outside to guide the driver.
The driver made several allegations in an attempt to blame the injured plaintiff for this accident, rather than accept the blame himself. First, he claimed that plaintiff failed to set up any barricades between himself and the traffic areas where trucks and other vehicles would pass. This was completely contradicted by plaintiff’s own testimony and by photographs of the scene which showed construction barrels near the plaintiff. The driver also claimed that our client was at fault for not having another person nearby to warn him of oncoming traffic. This was clearly preposterous as the driver’s own laborers would have seen the plaintiff had they simply been outside the truck guiding the vehicle rather than inside the truck keeping warm.
Moreover, the laborers each admitted to seeing the plaintiff both when entering the staging area and when pulling out of the area. They assumed the driver saw him too, but clearly he did not. As a result, the front right side of the truck’s bumper knocked the plaintiff over while the front tire of the truck ran over the plaintiff’s left leg.
The plaintiff suffered a fractured fibula and tibula of his leg. He was confined to the hospital for (8) days where intramedullary rodding and nailing surgery was performed. He was then transferred to an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
He continued to have pain in his knee as well as his ankle. He eventually underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and when that procedure failed to bring him enough relief, he ultimately had a total knee replacement.
The defendants argued that the need for a total knee replacement was due more so to pre-existing arthritis rather than the trauma to his leg. Plaintiff’s doctors very effectively disputed this by showing that plaintiff’s no-affected knee had very little arthritis and one would expect that both knees would be equally arthritic.
As a result of these injuries, the plaintiff was unable to return to work. He was found totally disabled by the Social Security Administration and plaintiff’s expert economist projected that plaintiff incurred economic damages totaling $958,000 between lost wages and benefits.
Ultimately, the defendants suggested that the parties attend a mediation in an effort to settle the matter. Plaintiff agreed to attend the meditation but he and Mr. Sitinas walked out when it became very clear that the defendants were not serious about settling this matter for a reasonable sum. Remarkably, this case would go back to mediation (2) more times before Mr. Sitinas and his client were satisfied with the final settlement offer of $2,235,000.
Equally impressive is the fact that Mr. Sitinas was able to secure this settlement in approximately two and one-half years after the accident – when the typical time for such cases often exceeds four (4) years. This was simply the result of tenacious lawyering that resulted in a fair and just settlement.
Mr. Sitinas obtained a $1.9 million recovery for a 51-year-old client who fell through an unsecured piece of plywood on the second floor of a home being built for him. This settlement was significant because the defendant construction company only had a $500,000 insurance policy.
At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was inside his house, which was being constructed. The accident occurred when the plaintiff was admiring the views from what would eventually become his master bedroom. While walking across the home's second level flooring, he stepped on an unsecured piece of plywood covering the opening where the staircase leading to the home's basement would be. He fell approximately 25 feet to the basement floor, sustaining a burst fracture at the L1 level of his spine and compression fracture of the L3 vertebrae. The plaintiff required surgery for the insertion of titanium rods to stabilize his spine. He also required a surgically implanted pain medicine pump for the continuous delivery of pain medication.
The defendants first claimed that the accident was entirely the fault of the plaintiff, alleging that there was safety-colored spray paint along the perimeter of the plywood and that there was even a worker who was actively cutting along the edges of this piece when the plaintiff walked across it. Moreover, the defendants alleged that only the construction company should have been sued and not the two individual owners. Their contention was that the plaintiff entered into a contract with the construction company only and not with the individual owners of the company, therefore the owners' personal assets could not be sought in satisfaction of this claim. Had they been successful with the argument, the client would have been limited to a recovery of the $500,000 bodily injury limits of the insurance policy. Mr. Sitinas, however, was able to pierce the corporate veil and attach liability to the individual owners of the construction company because at the time of the accident, the company owners had failed to file the necessary corporate documents. In fact, the company was nothing more than a fictitious corporate entity, thereby exposing the individual owners to personal liability. As a result, Mr. Sitinas obtained not only the full $500,000 insurance policy limit, but also a personal settlement contribution from the company's owners in the amount of $1.4 million.
This case is a prime example of Mr. Sitinas's tenacity in leaving no stone unturned while seeking to hold tortfeasors accountable for their negligent acts.
Our client, a member of the DC-9 Painter’s Union, was injured while working at a State Hospital in Rockland County, NY. The general contractor instructed him to never place anything, including ladders, on the newly installed floors. Instead, he was to use pieces of tile from the old floor under his ladder, which of course, were unsecured. While painting a ceiling in one of the hospital rooms, his ladder shifted while placed on one of the loose floor tiles, causing him to fall on his left side. He suffered a displaced fracture of his left 5th metacarpal requiring surgery and insertion of a metacarpal pin. He also suffered a left shoulder rotator cuff tear with labral tearing, requiring surgical arthroscopy with subacromial decompression. This case was particularly challenging in that it was pending in the Court of Claims, the only court where a party may sue the State of New York. There are no jury trials in the Court of Claims, only bench trials and oftentimes, verdicts are substantially lower. As such, our client was extremely pleased to settle this matter for $1,500,000.
Stavros Sitinas was able to secure a substantial settlement of $1,500,000.00 on behalf of a 48-year building supervisor at a high-rise office building in Manhattan, who was injured in an elevator accident. At the time of the accident, our client was in the elevator, descending from the lobby level to the sub-basement, when the elevator breaking mechanism failed, hurling the elevator to the roof of the building where it violently made contact with the emergency stops. As a result of the accident, our client suffered injuries to his right shoulder, as well as his neck and low back. He sustained injuries to various levels in his cervical spine, from C2-3 through C7-T1. He also suffered bulging and herniated discs to his lumbar spine at L2-3 through L4-5. His shoulder injury was addressed through arthroscopic surgery. His lumbar and cervical injuries were addressed via steroid injections. The self-insured defendants knew the case was virtually indefensible and agreed to settle prior to depositions taking place.
Mr. Sitinas obtained a $1.9 million recovery for a 51-year-old client who fell through an unsecured piece of plywood on the second floor of a home being built for him. This settlement was significant because the defendant construction company only had a $500,000 insurance
Stavros E. Sitinas obtained a verdict in excess of $1.2 million for a 58-year-old woman who was hit by a tractor-trailer that jumped on the sidewalk where she was walking. The victim suffered skull, shoulder, rib, and thumb injuries.
The defense claimed that the driver lost control of his vehicle due to a "coughing fit" that caused him to lose consciousness. They argued that since their client suffered a medical emergency, he could not be found negligent in causing this accident. The owner of the truck and the employer of the defendant truck driver did acknowledge three previous medical emergency accidents but were able to provide a recent doctor's certificate (issued 16 days before the incident) that medically cleared him to operate a tractor-trailer.
Using the same certificate, Mr. Sitinas was able to prove that this medical clearance to drive was acquired partially through a false medical history given by the driver. Mr. Sitinas further proved, through the testimony of the responding police officers, that the driver of the truck appeared lucid at the scene and never told them that he had lost consciousness. Mr. Sitinas argued that this loss of consciousness claim was nothing more than a farce created during the litigation process.
The victim sustained a fractured skull, three rib fractures, a displaced fracture of a clavicle, and a rupture of her right (dominant) thumb's ulnar collateral ligament. The jury refused to believe the "medical emergency" defense and instead returned a $1,207,930 verdict in favor of the injured victim.
Mr. Sitinas recently settled a case on behalf of a 54 year old passenger in a vehicle driven by his best friend. Another good friend of theirs was asleep in the back seat as the three of them were driving north on the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95).
Just after crossing into Connecticut from New York, the driver noticed his car was low on fuel. Knowing he did not have enough fuel to make it to Foxwoods Casino, the driver pulled into the right lane of this three-lane highway. He did so knowing there was a service area not far ahead on the highway.
At the same time, a box truck weighing several thousand pounds pulled up alongside their vehicle in the middle lane. When the front of the truck was parallel to the driver’s door of the much smaller sedan, the truck driver inexplicably cut into the right lane, striking the mid-section of the sedan and spinning it around, such that the entire driver’s side of the sedan was perpendicular to the front of the truck. Essentially, the truck was pushing the sedan up I-95 with the side of the car pasted to the front of the truck. The driver testified that as he looked out his side window, all he could see was the truck’s front grill against his window. At that point, the occupants of the vehicle feared for their lives. Worse yet, the truck’s driver had no idea he had just struck the sedan or that he was pushing the vehicle perpendicularly up the highway. He did, however, hear the impact and during his deposition testimony, he stated that upon hearing the impact, he believed his truck had suffered a tire blow-out, particularly because of the way his steering felt and because he could sense the truck was driving erratically. He blamed a blind-spot for not seeing the sedan, either before impact or while he was pushing the vehicle up the highway. This horrific situation continued for nearly a mile. The driver of the truck then attempted to pull off the highway and onto the right shoulder, however, there were concrete barriers set up and the truck actually ended up pushing our client’s vehicle up and onto the top of the concrete barriers. As a result of the impact with the barrier, the front passenger door was ejected open and our client’s foot actually came out of the car’s cabin only to be partially crushed when the door slammed closed on his foot.
With the car perilously perched on top of the concrete barrier, the occupants exited the vehicle and awaited Emergency Medical personnel.
As a result of this accident, our client suffered crush injuries to his right foot, a trabecular fracture in his medial malleolus, partial tears of the ligaments in his ankle, requiring arthroscopic surgery. He also developed pain in his back from months of using a cane and having an antalgic gait. When physical therapy did not cure his pain, he ultimately underwent a series of steroid injections for his lower back. When those failed, he finally made the difficult decision of undergoing a Transforaminal Lumbar Fusion Surgery at L5-S1.
Mr. Sitinas made a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, which the court granted. This meant that the driver was found negligent as a matter of law and the case would proceed to trial solely on the issue of damages. Faced with the possibility of a jury awarding substantial damages at trial, the defendants asked Mr. Sitinas to attempt settlement of the matter via mediation.
Mr. Sitinas attended a mediation with one of New York’s most respected mediators, Mr. Kenneth Grundstein, and the case settled for nearly $1,000,000 (The actual settlement amount cannot be disclosed as it is part of a confidentiality agreement).