Six years to the day after a crane accident took the lives of two construction workers, a judge has declared a mistrial in the case against the crane operator. Judge Manuel Mendez declared the mistrial before court proceedings got fully underway, due to a car crash that left crane owner James Lomma with serious injuries.
New Jersey construction accident lawyers are keeping a close eye on the case, to see how developments might affect this and future litigation involving construction accidents.
While the trial has been tentatively rescheduled for September, the new date does little to assuage family members of the deceased construction workers that spent a significant sum traveling overseas to be present at the initial proceedings. Relatives of Ramadan Kurtaj spent thousands to travel from Kosovo to be present during the trial. While Judge Mendez was aware of the family’s expense, he told the court if he did not declare a mistrial, his decision would likely be overturned by appellate courts.
Lomma was involved in a car accident on May 20 and had been in the hospital since that time for treatment of multiple injuries. With multiple fractures on various locations of his body, his physician told Judge Mendez that it was not likely Lomma would be able to be back in court for eight to twelve weeks. Mendez also told the court the accident involved multiple vehicles and both the crash and Lomma’s injuries had been properly verified.
Lomma’s attorneys notified the court of the problem after opening statements had been underway for four days. Jury selection had not yet been completed. Attorneys for the families of the deceased tried to persuade Judge Mendez to continue the trial, in hopes Lomma would be able to return to court before the end of the proceedings. However, Mendez determined that although it was not required for Lomma to be present during the trial, he was a key witness for the defense and his absence could impact the outcome of the trial.
Crane accidents in NYC
The initial crane collapse took place on May 30, 2008 on the Upper East Side of New York City. Witnesses of the accident said both the cab and arm of the crane crashed down more than 20 stories, taking out large portions of a neighboring penthouse and balconies before it hit the ground. Crane operator Donald Leo, died at the scene. Kurtaj died of cardiac arrest at an area hospital a few hours after the accident occurred.
This accident occurred just two months after another crane collapse on the East Side of Manhattan took the lives of seven and injured many more. New crane rules were introduced after these two accidents in New York, in an attempt to make the construction process safer for everyone involved.
The families of the victims allege that responsibility for the accident lies with Lomma, who ordered a quick fix on the crane rather than stopping work on the ongoing construction project. Lomma has countered those allegations, asserting others were at fault for the accident. However, two years ago in another courtroom, a mechanic employed by Lomma pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and testified against the construction giant. At the end of that trial, Lomma was acquitted of charges of manslaughter.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 183,000 workers were injured in construction accidents in 2012 alone. In addition, 817 workers were killed in construction accidents, making this industry the most dangerous in the United States. Workers who are injured at construction sites often suffer catastrophic, life-changing injuries. Others, like Leo and Kurtaj, tragically die as a result of construction accidents like crane collapses.
New Jersey construction accident lawyers can help
If you are injured in a construction accident, you may be eligible to file a NJ crane accident lawsuit. Eisbrouch & Marsh offers skilled legal assistance to those who have been injured on the job in New Jersey or New York. Contact us at 201-342-5545 to learn more about your options and schedule a free evaluation of your case.
- New York Daily News, Victims’ Families Ordeal Deepened by James Lomma Crane Collapse Mistrial Decision, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mistrial-declared-lomma-trial-crane-collapse-article-1.1811431
- Wall Street Journal, Mistrial in NYC Crane Case after Owner’s Wreck, http://online.wsj.com/article/AP4e3e0f5d8df2485d953bd76cd7d571f4.html
- Newsday, Embracing Job Site Safety will Save Lives, http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/embracing-job-site-safety-will-save-lives-kris-lagrange-1.8443976
- New York Times, Crane Collapses on Manhattan’s East Side, Killing 4, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/16/nyregion/16collapse.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- CNN, Second Construction Worker Dies in New York Crane Collapse, http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/30/crane.collapse/index.html?_s=PM:US