The owner of a crane that reportedly killed two construction workers must now pay nearly $48 million in damages. Although acquitted of criminal manslaughter charges, the owner and his company were the focus of a civil wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a 27-year-old man who was working below the crane when it collapsed, along with the 39-year-old crane operator. The families of these workers were awarded $32 million and $15.8 million, respectively.
The accident took place in the Upper East Side during the construction of a high-rise in May 2008. The top part of the crane snapped and fell to the ground. The attorneys representing the deceased individuals’ families argued that the crane owner allowed an inadequate, but less expensive, repair to a critical part of the crane, which subsequently failed and led to the collapse of the machinery.
The same arguments were made during the criminal trial, but the crane operator’s lawyers successfully defended the owner against those charges by asserting that the repair was correctly done and inspected properly. The owner’s legal team instead argued that the crane operator made errors that in part destabilized the equipment.
The mechanic who performed the repair entered a guilty plea to charges of criminally negligent homicide and subsequently received a sentence of one year of community service. The crane owner was acquitted of all criminal charges in 2012. This most recent civil trial began in October 2014 after a postponement when the crane owner was seriously injured in an unrelated auto accident.
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