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Carpenter Secures Settlement in Forklift Incident

Lizzy McLellan, The Legal Intelligencer

March 31, 2015

A union carpenter who was injured on the job reached settlement with the heating and air conditioning subcontractor whose employee allegedly struck the plaintiff with a forklift.

Nasco Heating agreed to pay $850,000 to Karl and Kathy Lange in a settlement reached one week before trial was set to commence in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

Karl Lange, then age 56, was working as a carpenter at a job site in Plymouth Meeting Mall on Dec. 23, 2008, when he was injured, the plaintiffs’ pretrial memorandum said.

While Lange was working, the memo said, he heard a forklift start nearby, and saw Sam Culmone, a sheet metal worker for Nasco, sitting on the forklift. According to both the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ memoranda, Lange offered to run the forklift for Culmone, but he declined the offer.

According to the plaintiffs’ memo, Lange returned to his work, then heard the forklift approaching. He turned and saw the lift traveling in reverse, the memo said. It then struck Lange and pinned him to a wall. Culmone indicated that he had accidentally put the lift in reverse, the memo said.

According to the defense settlement memorandum, Lange testified that he did not hear a backup warning signal from the forklift, but no evidence was presented to show the audio warning system on the forklift was malfunctioning.

The defense memo said Lange completed the rest of his shift that day without medical assistance and did not report the incident to his employer until Dec. 29. Culmone denied hitting Lange with the forklift, the defense said.

The incident caused Lange’s abdominal and lower body crush injuries, the plaintiffs’ memo said, as well as spinal injuries. The lower body injuries impaired Lange’s gait and caused bowel and bladder dysfunction and incontinence, the memo said.

According to the plaintiffs, a doctor assessing Lange said he still has trouble walking, even with a cane. The doctor said the bowel incontinence could require surgery, and the bladder incontinence could require catheter placement or self-catheterization, the memo said.

“Dr. Citara has opined that plaintiff is permanently disabled from the physical and psychological standpoint as a direct result of the work injury on Dec. 23, 2008,” the plaintiffs’ memo said.

In its settlement memo, the defense disputed the allegation that the forklift incident caused permanent disability and bowel and bladder incontinence.

“Any disability plaintiff may now be suffering is as a result of his long-standing degenerative disc disease,” the defense memo said.

According to the plaintiffs’ memo, Lange earned about $84,500 annually in the three years before the incident, and received fringe benefits. A rehabilitation counselor said Lange became unemployable because of his injuries in addition to his limited education and his age, the memo said. An economic expert calculated economic losses of $1.3 million, it said.

Prior to settlement, the plaintiffs’ demand was $4 million, and the defense offer was $285,000.

The settlement followed a three-hour settlement conference with Judge Thomas M. DelRicci. Lange also reached an agreement with his workers’ compensation carrier to reduce its lien of approximately $285,000 to $110,000, plaintiffs attorney Gerald B. Baldino Jr. said. The $110,000 came out of the Nasco settlement, and the remainder went to Lange, Baldino said.

The attorney for the defense, Gary S. Williams, declined to comment.

Reprinted with permission from the “ISSUE DATE” edition of the “PUBLICATION.” © “2015” ALM Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.

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