A jury has awarded $24 million in punitive damages to each of the families of the two workers killed when a crane tower collapsed in New York City in 2008. This increases the total damages awarded in the litigation to more than $96 million. This winds up one of the longest civil trials in New York City history. The punitive award follows the jury’s earlier decision that the crane’s owner, James F. Lomma, and his companies, should pay more than $48.3 million in compensatory damages to the victims’ families to cover economic losses and pain and suffering.
Lomma, who had been acquitted of criminal charges stemming from the collapse, was found in civil court to be at fault because he knew a part of the crane that caused the accident was defective. On May 30, 2008, the crane separated from the tower and collapsed, killing Donald C. Leo, the crane operator, and Ramadan Kurtaj, a construction worker, who were on the street below. The civil trial, which began in September in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, took 120 days to complete.
It was proved that Lomma used an unqualified Chinese company to repair the crane to save money. It was claimed and proved that the crane gave way because of shoddy welding and that Lomma, aware of the shortcomings of the crane, should have taken it out of service. Lomma’s lawyers claimed that the crane operator hoisted too heavy a load, causing the line to snap, which knocked the crane off balance. Mr. Leo, who had followed in his father’s footsteps to become a crane operator, died weeks before he was scheduled to be married. Mr. Kurtaj, who had emigrated from Kosovo, was working on water and sewer lines when he was crushed in the collapse.
Source: New York Times
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