NYC’s DEP Liable for $3 Million in Damages After Worker Injured

A $3 million pain and suffering award has been reinstated against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection after it was found to be in violation of state labor laws.

Rafael Lopez filed suit against the city and the department collectively due to injuries he sustained while working on the construction site at Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant is currently owned by the City of New York and managed by the New York Department of Environmental Protection.

According to reports, Lopez fell backward and was impaled by an uncapped piece of vertical rebar (steel reinforcement), which ultimately caused him to sustain serious life-long injuries. He required multiple hospitalizations, spinal fusion surgery and physical therapy. Considering the nature and extent of Lopez’s injuries, the jury awarded him compensation for past and future pain and suffering totaling $5 million. City officials denied any liability o accident and raised issues of comparative negligence, a common defense to a labor lawsuit.

Unfortunately for Mr. Lopez, he was unsuccessful after the Kings County Supreme court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.
On appeal, the city moved for a new trial on the future pain and suffering damages. “The court agreed with the original jury award stating the $2 million past pain and suffering did not materially deviate from reasonable compensation and for the same reason the award for $3 million future pain and suffering would be reinstated. ”


Employers are responsible for ensuring their employees work in a safe and hazard-free environment and have the proper training and tools to do their job safely as well as identify any dangerous threats to themselves and their co-workers.

When an individual is injured or killed while on the job, by law the employer must report the incident to OSHA for a complete investigation. Additionally in Massachusetts, when a worker suffers a workplace injury, he or she is supposed to be covered by Workers’ Compensation Benefits. These benefits ensure that a worker and his or her family is compensated for medical bills, disability payments and lost wages, as well as compensated for permanent injuries, disfigurement and scars.

Acquiring all of these benefits can sometimes be challenging, and it is advised that you speak to a licensed Workers’ Compensation Attorney to discuss your options after you have been involved in a workplace incident.

At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys has nearly five decades of experience handling workers’ compensation and work injury cases.

Upon review of your case, we will thoroughly investigate your work injury case and examine all avenues of recovery for you, including helping you to access the finest healthcare available in the Commonwealth. Additionally, we will determine whether other parties are liable for your injuries, such as the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment or a negligent contractor, and we can file claims or lawsuits against all responsible parties so that you receive the compensation you are entitled to. If you or a loved one was the victim of a workplace injury, do not hesitate to call one of the seasoned attorneys at Altman & Altman. Our attorneys are available around the clock to assist you and all initial consultations are completely free and confidential.

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