Steam Boiler Explosion / Wrongful Death/Survival Action/ Emotional Distress

D.C. area’s largest real estate developer/manager sued for wrongful death and injury of two maintenance workers (uncle and nephew). Building’s steam boiler exploded, causing 80% third degree burns and death three weeks later to one worker. The other worker, the decedent’s nephew, suffered burns and witnessed his uncle sustain massive, horrid injury.

Liability of defendant for this explosion was based on a testimony of an OSHA/steamfitter expert concerning failure to inspect, follow proper cool down and manual procedures not done that are employed by qualified steamfitters in that industry.

The first trial judge granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. This decision was appealed and successfully reversed in D.C. Court of Appeals, Henderson vs. Charles E. Smith Management Co., 567 A.2d 462 (DC 1988). Appellate issues included employer/employee control and standard of review for summary judgment.

The case was then tried before a jury which awarded $1.1 million verdict/judgment, which was promptly paid by the defendant.

Among the first cases in the District of Columbia to persuade a Superior Court jury to award damages based on the emotional distress of watching the serious injuring of a close relative. Williams vs. Baker, 572 A.2d 1062 (DC 1990) a D.C. Court of Appeals case that paved the way for the new tort. Reported in D.C. Legal Times, 10/15/90, Million Dollar Verdict; Metro Verdicts Monthly, Volume 2, Number 12, page 470. Worksite Accident Maintenance Workers Burns.


Construction Safety Zone –No Cover – Falling Debris/Hard Concrete - Fracture - Foot

Suit and settlement by court provided mediation (after witness depositions) of claim of Department of Homeland employee who was walking back to work from lunch with a co-worker on a pedestrian walkway on 5th Street, NW in Washington, DC when suddenly, a piece of hard concrete crashed down onto the top of her right foot from the direction of a construction site, fracturing the 4th metatarsal and leaving her with arthritic changes and residual symptoms.

The general contractor, in control of this construction site failed to adhere to safety work zone requirements and provided no covered walkway to protect pedestrians from falling debris.

In violation of Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) concerning construction standards, such as, detour signage, protective barriers, walkways designed to provide sturdiness, adequate light for proper sight distance, adequate impact resistant, longitudinal separation from vehicles, etc.

The general contractor attempted to defend by arguing that the city did not require overhead walkways, even though the circumstances and conditions obviously dictated an overhead cover for pedestrians was necessary. The supervisor for a concrete subcontractor testified that a trailer was situated next to the temporary pedestrian walkway where the accident occurred. He testified that well before the accident, he witnessed falling debris on a repeated basis at the site, prompting his company to construct an overhead cover for it trailer at the site. The project manager for the general contractor testified it would have been feasible to also build a cover for the pedestrians much like the wood covered pedestrian walkways the general contractor had been built on other projects.


OSHA Violations - Interior Demolition – Floor Collapse – 25 ft Fall – Fractured Vertebrae

Settlement of demolition worker’s personal suit against developer and general contractor for multiple injuries he sustained from an axial loading trauma when a structural beam and floor collapsed during the interior demolition of seven turn of the century contiguous row houses in being gutted for construction of a 16 unit condominium in Washington, D.C. The worker fell 25 feet and landed on the level below fracturing his coccyx, and T-12 vertebra and accelerating degeneration of the thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccyx areas of the spine.

An expert in construction and workplace accidents, safety standards and regulations and former Director of Safety Standards, U.S. Department Of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration testified at deposition as to industry standards for demolition. The Demolition Safety Manual from the National Association of Demolition Contractors, The Manual of Accident Prevention in Construction, Associated General Contractors, Chapter 14, Demolition; the ANSI code and OSHA standards required that before commencing the demolition the general contractor should have and failed to perform a competent engineering survey and inspection for the strength and/or structural integrity of the floors, structural beams, and fasteners, including an assessment of dimensions of the wood involved; the age of the material; its physical condition; structural problems; the presence of moisture inside the building; outside exposure; and fire damage. The developer’s website contained text and revealed photos taken 5 days prior to the accident that corroborated the unsafe, deteriorated, fire ravaged and structurally unsound condition of the floors and structural members. The case was settled before trial by mediation provided by the court.


Slip and Fall – Supermarket Customer – Employee Spill - Cleaning Fluid –Hamstring

Settlement of a slip and fall case of a 68 year old United States Department of Agriculture employee who sustained a hamstring injury. on wet floor at a Safeway in the Cherrydale section of Arlington, VA where he had been a customer for 40 years. The floor was covered in invisible cleaning fluid spilled by an employee who had not dried it or marked the area with a sign.


Slip and Fall - High Rise Apartment – Parking Lot –Negligent Maintenance

Suit and settlement of claim against on behalf of international affairs expert, age 69, who suffered a transverse fracture through the lower patella when he slipped on debris in his apartment complex parking lot. Surgery at George Washington University Hospital for an open reduction and internal fixation of patella implant in the knee joint was required. The evidence showed that apartment complex ownership and management knew the debris was there (remnants of a car wreck several hours earlier in the same parking lot) and although this wreckage posed a danger to anyone using the parking lot, they failed to clean it up.


Suit Against Caterer and Banquet Facility - Slip and Fall on Ice Cube

Slip and fall lawsuit against catering company and banquet facility by 62 year old deputy director of U.S. government agency who sustained a displaced fracture of the shoulder acromiom and nondisplaced fracture right fifth metatarsal walking on a sidewalk in Rosslyn Virginia near the entrance of a banquet facility when she slipped on an ice cube that slid from a pile of ice cubes negligently dumped by a caterer in the adjacent sloped grass area and onto the concrete sidewalk.


County Elevator Inspector –Fractured Vertebrae - Emergency Exit/Cab Door Collapse

County elevator inspector injured when an emergency exit/cab door collapsed causing him to fall 12 feet to the floor of the elevator cab and fracture his vertebrae. The existing door was made of pressed wood with a thin sheet of metal on the outside. The door was not hinged and did not overlap the door opening. The screws were about ¾” long and had about a ½” grabbing power. The existing door was replaced with a heavy metal door that only slightly overlapped the door opening. The ANSI Code required that the car top enclosure, of which the exit door is part, must hold a minimum of 300 pounds. The inspector weighed 240 pounds at time of the accident. The case was eventually dismissed by summary judgment when the trial court found as a matter of law that when the inspector stood on the exit door it constituted contributory negligence and therefore barred any recovery by the plaintiff.


U.S. Park – Statute - Play Slide - Broken Glass – Laceration- Median Nerve –

Federal Tort Claim against United States Park Service, Hains Point, Washington, DC where teenager student sustained severe laceration from broken glass at Awakening statue, a well-known landmark and tourist destination commonly known to be used by as a play slide. The Injuries involved: reconstructive plastic microsurgery of median nerve, 3 flexor digitorum superficialis tendons; loss of thenar eminence due to atrophy, narrowing web space or narosimian palm; and diminished fine motor manipulation, protective response and grip.


Landlord Negligence - Defective Furnace – Heat Exchanger Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Settlement of tenant’s suit against landlord for injuries tenant sustained from carbon monoxide poisoning. Evidence showed the landlord who knew or should have known the property’s furnace had a cracked heat exchanger that posed the danger of emitting carbon monoxide and did not make the necessary repairs despite this knowledge.


Overhead Pneumatic Door Closer—Negligent Design & Installation Head Trauma/TMJ-

At FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. employee struck in the head by overheard door closing device that had dislodged from its mounting, sustaining head, neck, tempomandibular joint, and leg injuries. A federal jury trial (verdict $100,000.00) against door installer and building owner for negligent design, installation, inspection, and repair of door closing mechanism. The case was reported in Metro Verdicts Monthly, Volume 2, Number 2, page 41. Premises Liability Office Plaza Detached Door. Federal Center Plaza.


Motorized Gate - Defective Design -–Hand Laceration-

Severely lacerated hand caused by the defective design of fence gate retraction operator.


Slip and Fall – Pedestrian – Sidewalk -Construction Site - Dry Mud-

Construction contractor’s negligent inspection and maintenance of construction site caused elderly pedestrian to break a hip when she slipped and fell on rough, uneven terrain produced by dried mud.


Lead Paint Poisoning- Minor Child - Vacant Property - Squatter Tenants

Defense of estate/owner of vacant D.C. townhouse in multimillion dollar lead paint intoxication litigation involving issues and experts in environmental safety, epidemiology, child development, education, and neuropsychology.


Hotel - Elevator Machine Room-- Improper Design and Construction - Guardrail

First civil jury trial, $120,000.00 verdict and judgment for plaintiff against the defendant, Bellevue Hotel in Washington, D.C. based on negligence arising from an improper design and construction of the hotel’s elevator machine room guardrail.


Office Building - Defective Stairs Fall - Herniated Lumbar Disc

Slippery, defective stairs caused building guest to fall and sustain a herniated lumbar disk, protrusion into neuroforamen, stenosis, and resulted in a posterior bilateral fusion surgery. The case involved neurosurgical/orthopedic expert testimony regarding causation and the diagnostic accuracy of MRI, CAT scan, and myelograms.


Unsafe Workplace - Construction Site - Steel Rod - Slip and Fall - Herniated Disc

Construction subcontractor’s employee slipped and fell on construction debris (steel reinforcement rod). Suit against general contractor for failure to maintain a safe workplace and OSHA violations.