Paul B. Kornacki, Associate Attorney
Our firm recently handled a death claim resulting from a fall from a ladder. In this matter, our client was an auto dealership who had hired an individual to weatherize a large service door. Through our investigation it was revealed that the claimant did fall at the auto dealership and died three days later. In our discussions with the manager of the dealership, it was determined that he had hired a contractor, solely look at the service door and give an estimate. The contractor proceeded to bring with him two additional individuals, one of whom was the claimant.
At the time of the accident, the contractor was uninsured. The Uninsured Employer’s Fund was thus brought in, looking for anyone to pin responsibility on. We brought in the manager of the auto dealership to provide testimony on the accident, at which point he explained that he had hired a contractor, not the claimant, for an estimate only. He further explained that it was exclusively the contractor’s decision to bring the claimant along on the day of the accident. The employer witness also confirmed that the ladder the claimant fell from was brought to the auto dealership by the contractor. To further corroborate his testimony, we strategically took testimony from another manager of a different auto dealership who knew the contractor and who had provided the contractor’s name as a recommendation to our client.
Our client was understandably nervous, acknowledging the potential severity of the matter since it was a death case with a potential of lifetime payments to the surviving spouse. There was no denying that the accident had occurred on the premises of his dealership, and the claimant was indeed working when the incident occurred. This, in addition to not knowing what the surviving spouse would say in her testimony, had the our client feeling apprehensive.
The contractor did appear at one hearing, without an attorney, where he refused to participate in the hearing. In fact, he refused to answer any questions from the Judge whatsoever. Without any contribution from the negligent contractor, our firm was able to provide the complete picture for the Judge and show where the dots were and how to connect them. The surviving spouse then corroborated our theory of the case. The Judge then formally discharged and removed both our employer and carrier from Notice, and the Uninsured Employer’s Fund was determined to be the responsible carrier. Lifetime benefits were awarded to the surviving spouse, payable solely by the Uninsured Employer’s Fund.