Injured Construction Worker Awarded $717,000
Journal News, May 8, 2001
Mount Kisco man fell 12 feet when floor at site collapsed
MOUNT KISCO – A Mount Kisco man injured in a 1999 construction accident was awarded $717,000 by a Westchester County jury last week.
The judgment awarded the money to Ventura Almanza, who on March 1, 1999 was working with a jackhammer on the second floor of an abandoned schoolhouse at 90 Ringgold St. in Peekskill when the floor gave way, said Howard Frederick, Almanza’s attorney.
Almanza’s lawsuit charged the Peekskill Industrial Development Association and Drum Hill Associates with providing an unsafe working environment, Frederick said. Both Peekskill IDA and Drum Hill, which has offices in Peekskill and Yonkers, had an ownership interest in the building and they were actively involved in its renovation, Frederick said.
“The floor was supposed to be demolished or go down, but they had given them these wooden planks to stand on,” Frederick said. “Obviously, they weren’t sufficient, because when the floor went, the planks went with it.”
Almanza, 42, dropped 12 feet before landing on a concrete floor, Frederick said. Almanza cut his lip and tongue and broke his right arm, he said.
Because of the accident, Almanza lost some ability to use his arm, Frederick said. As a result, he’s had to take a lower-paying job as a part-time worker in a restaurant kitchen, Frederick said.
“The bottom line is his life was affected and will continue to be affected until the day he dies, because the break was of such great magnitude and the reconstruction that took place was so severe that he will have a decrease in his ability to use his right arm,” Frederick said.
The work was being done on the building as part of a project to transform the former Drum Hill School into a senior living community. Plans for the site included putting in 120 units and offering studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Robert Ondrovic, the White Plains-based lawyer representing Peekskill IDA, said he was pleased with the decision. He said the Peekskill IDA doesn’t plan to appeal to ruling.
Before the trial started, Almanza’s lawyers were asking for $1.5 million, while defendants were pushing for a $500,000 award, Ondrovic said.
“This case would have settled for a lot more than the jury awarded,” Ondrovic said. “It’s a very fair result.”
The award won’t be paid by Peekskill IDA or Drum Hill, Ondrovic said. Instead, the full cost of the settlement will have to be paid by the insurance company for Almanza’s employer, J.J. Sisca & Associates of Brewster, who was supervising him at the time of the accident, Ondrovic said. Peekskill IDA and Drum Hill signed a contract with J.J. Sisca before the work began, saying that J.J. Sisca’s insurance provider would pay for costs related to workplace injuries at the site, Ondrovic said.
Officials at J.J. Sisca could not be reached for comment. Drum Hill officials also couldn’t be reached for comment.