Remembering Black Sunday Firefighters

Remembering Black Sunday Firefighters

Today marks the anniversary of the devastating Black Sunday fires in 2005, which killed or severely injured seven members of the FDNY. First, Brooklyn firefighter Richard Sclafani died when overcome by smoke at a private house fire. On that same day, five firefighters and a lieutenant became trapped in a Bronx apartment that was consumed by flames and were forced to jump five stories from a top-floor window to avoid being burned to death. Lt. Curtis Meyran and Firefighter John Bellew were killed upon impact with the ground. Firefighter Joseph DiBernardo was severely hurt and died six years later from the physical and psychological toll of his injuries. Firefighters Gene Stolowski, Jeff Cool and Brendan Cawley survived the tragedy, but continue to suffer from life-changing and permanent injuries.

Today we remember the sacrifice and heroism of those who perished and those who were so severely injured.

They and their families will never be forgotten.

Wintertime Construction Safety Tips

Wintertime Construction Safety Tips

In the greater New York area, we’re generally prepared for harsh winters characterized by icy and snowy conditions. But during particularly severe weather hazards – like the extreme cold much of the country just experienced –construction professionals should take increased safety precautions before setting foot on a construction site. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo PC (SPBMC) has successfully represented construction workers who have suffered injuries or fatalities after being put in harm’s way during cold weather conditions.

The best way to avoid accidents during inclement weather is of course to suspend a project until it’s safe or warm enough to resume. Employers should be cognizant of local weather advisories before sending crews to their sites – especially if outdoor work is required. The New York Department of Buildings issues warnings in advance of restrictive weather conditions and they are publicly available.

OSHA’s Hazard Alert and winter weather webpages provide guidance to employers on how to prevent serious injuries and fatalities. Employers should consider options to avoid working on roofs or elevated heights, plan ahead for safe snow removal and must:

  • Provide required fall protection and training when working on the roof or elevated heights
  • Ensure ladders are used safely (e.g. clearing snow and ice from surfaces)
  • Use extreme caution when working near power lines
  • Prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion reported that the construction industry loses billions of dollars on delays and failures caused by bad weather: “Buildings are damaged during storms; sites turn into seas of mud; freezing temperatures make it impossible to pour concrete. It would seem to make sense for construction planners to use seasonal forecasts to minimize the risk of these unpleasant, expensive surprises.”

But the risks are not limited to building hazards. So much of a construction project depends on transportation to and from a site. While it is impossible to estimate the value and weight of all the materials that need to be moved and removed from a site, what is known are the consequences of transporting them when roads are impacted by cold and ice. Drivers and vehicle operators are also at a heightened risk during winter storms. Statistics analyzed over a 10-year period found that of the 5,748,000 annual vehicle crashes in the United States, 22% were weather-related. Seventeen percent – or nearly 215,000 – of those weather-related accidents occur during winter conditions: this includes during snow or sleet and on pavement that is icy, snowy or slushy.

It’s difficult enough to operate construction vehicles in normal conditions. If they must be used amid inclement weather, like during or after a snowstorm, responsible companies should ensure that the paths on construction sites remain clear. In most cases, the paths should also be sprinkled with salt, sand or calcium, depending on the grounds. Additionally, the process of clearing the snow should not create more obstacles. While piling the snow can be more convenient than melting it, a pile built too high may obstruct workers’ sight.

A construction site should always be properly maintained and particular care should be demonstrated during severe winter weather. SPBMC is committed to helping hardworking construction professionals who have suffered injuries or illnesses. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.

NYC Housing Authority Accused of False Lead Paint Inspections of Thousands of NYC Apartments

For years, the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) has claimed it made required annual inspections of its apartments for lead paint. However, the Department of Investigations charged Tuesday that NYCHA stopped doing all annual inspections from 2012 through 2014 and continuing into 2016 on thousands of apartments. Tenants of these apartments have potentially been exposed to lead paint which is particularly toxic.

Studies show lead paint can cause severe damage to young children. Exposure often results when the paint chips and flakes on radiators and window sills are ingested by young children. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) requires housing authorities to visually inspect all these apartments annually for hazardous lead paint conditions. NYCHA has more than 55,000 apartments that likely have lead paint, including 4,231 where families with children under 6 live. Since 2010, there have been 17 NYCHA apartments where the children tested positive for high levels of lead in their blood.

According to the Department of Investigations (DOI), senior NYCHA officials knew that the Housing Authority had falsely certified that the required annual lead paint inspections were done when in fact, from 2012 into 2016, they were not done. DOI Commissioner Mark Peters noted that the NYCHA has a history of failing to monitor the safety of its apartments. In previous cases, it failed to properly test smoke detectors, inspect elevators and exclude tenants convicted of violent criminal acts. Commissioner Peters recommended NYCHA hire an independent monitor “to ensure future compliance with inspections for safety items” including lead paint hazards, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and elevator safety.

While inspections have begun again, tenants of these apartments are left to wonder at the safety of their premises during the period when there were no inspections.

If you or a family member was exposed to lead paint, speak to a qualified attorney about your rights. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. has long been recognized as one of New York’s premier personal injury law firms due to our strong record of results, deep commitment to our valued clients and strong reputation in the legal community.

Contact us for a consultation today.

New Safety Training Requirements Signed Into Law In NY

New Safety Training Requirements Signed Into Law In NY

Construction safety is a high priority for Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC), as we have had years of success recovering millions of dollars for workers injured or killed on-site. Thankfully, this has also been a hot topic among New York’s public officials and lawmakers, who have enacted a new law to help mitigate the risks of such tragedies.

In October 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation to promote better construction site safety. The bill, Intro. 1447-C, increases safety training requirements for construction workers. One of its most critical features is the requirement of a 40-hour safety class with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“New York City is built on the ideals that every single person deserves…a City whose hard-working construction workers will get the safety training they need,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at the signing at City Hall. “For the hard-hats in one of our city’s most dangerous jobs, this bill will help get them home to their families at night and keep the general public safe around construction sites.”

A fine of $25,000 could be charged to construction sites that don’t adhere to OSHA’s safety regulations for not having trained workers. According to the New York Post:

The final bill instead requires the safety training [of an apprenticeship], though it does waive the requirement for workers who have had an apprenticeship the city deems as extensive as the training.

This training would average less than one hour per week over the course of a year. SPBMC believes that is a reasonable amount of time for any employee to take – and for every employer to allow – to ensure the safety of construction workers. The bill also aims to accommodate the needs and language barriers of immigrants, day laborers, and workers who speak languages other than English. The city’s developing skyline is evident of the construction industry’s growth and resilience, which is why this training can only be beneficial to employers, employees and their loved ones.

SPBMC proudly represents construction workers and other hardworking professionals committed to ensuring their safety through education and those who have sustained on-site injuries or fatalities. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.

Transportation Safety Tips For Construction Workers

Construction workers encounter safety risks in all phases of their jobs, whether their feet are on the ground or behind the wheel. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC) has represented workers who have been injured or killed while driving to, from and for work.

The statistics for transportation-related occupational injuries and fatalities are staggering. According to Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries from Vehicles and Equipment, each year more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Vehicles and equipment operating in and around work zones are involved in more than half of the construction worker fatalities.

 Distracted Driving

Driver inattention is a leading risk factor of most crashes, according to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.

Employers should take the lead in mitigating the risk of distracted driving. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety promotes several Drive Safely Work Week (DSWW) initiatives for fleets that can save lives and prevent injuries. They can also be observed during all times of the year. One example of its campaign is the DSWW Distracted Driving Module, which includes meaningful activities that reinforce the program’s safe-driving messages, yet won’t take significant time away from the workday.

Using hands-free phones and refraining from eating or drinking during a commute can reduce the risk of an on-the-road accident.

Pressure and Poor Decision-Making

There are times, unfortunately, when safety is sacrificed in the name of “getting things done” or because of a supervisor’s orders. In those situations, the consequences can be deadly.

Leaders In The Law recently reported on a Florida wrongful death case in which a driver made an illegal U-Turn on I-75. It was revealed during the trial that the driver, a third-party worker, was unfamiliar with the area but was told to proceed anyway to reach an unloading site one mile away. The turn was made at night, with little to no visibility or illumination and a collision quickly occurred. Ultimately, the jury found construction worker’s poor decision to operate the truck negligently caused the death of at least two people and injured others. The family of one of the victims sued the construction company and the driver and was awarded $45 million.

Site managers and supervisors should not pressure any worker – an employee or third-party laborer – to act in a manner that would put themselves or others in harm’s way. Though it can be intimidating, employees should speak up in those situations to avoid the risk of roadway accidents.

Seat Belts Save Lives

Most of the occupational fatalities occur on public highways where there are seat belt requirements and traffic laws between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. The most important driver safety policy that employers can implement and enforce is still the mandatory use of seat belts. NHTSA estimated that in 2000, the use of seat belts prevented 11,889 fatalities in the United States and could have prevented 9,238 fatalities that did occur.

SPBMC is committed to helping construction workers and other hardworking professionals who have sustained transportation-related injuries or fatalities. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.

Demolition’s Unique Safety Hazards

Demolition’s Unique Safety Hazards

Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, PC (SPBMC) has successfully represented demolitionists and other construction professionals who have been injured or killed while on-the-job. Demolition work involves many of the hazards associated with construction, from falling objects and toxic exposure to electrocution and musculoskeletal injuries. However, structures slated for demolition are often old and unstable which is why extra preparations and cautious planning is needed.

Spot Hazardous Signs

An engineering survey must be conducted before any work begins. That survey should detail the obvious and latent dangers in the structure. Then, managers and supervisors can create a demolition plan and communicate it to the on-site workers. It should expose several factors, such as:

  • Changes from the structure’s design introduced during construction;
  • Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original design;
  • Materials hidden within structural members, such as lead, asbestos, silica, and other chemicals or heavy metals requiring special material handling;
  • Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials, such as post-tensioned concrete; and
  • Hazards created by the demolition methods used.


Preventing Falls and Other Injuries

Below are some OSHA-recommended tips to safeguard against falls and other common demolition injuries:

  • Brace or shore up the walls and floors of structures which have been damaged and which employees must enter.
  • Inspect personal protective equipment before use.
  • Inspect all stairs, passageways, and ladders; illuminate all stairways.
  • Contact appropriate utility companies and shut off or cap all electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other service lines.
  • Guard wall openings to a height of 42 inches; cover and secure floor openings with material able to withstand the loads likely to be imposed.
  • Floor openings used for material disposal must not be more than 25% of the total floor area.
  • All roof cornices or other ornamental stonework must be removed prior to pulling walls down.
  • Employees must not be permitted to work where structural collapse hazards exist until they are corrected by shoring, bracing, or other effective means.


One of the most recent examples of a tragic demolition accident occurred in Philadelphia in 2013. In that scenario an aging, long-vacant four-story building in the downtown area was being demolished when it collapsed onto the one-story Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. Six people were killed – four shoppers and two thrift store employees – and 14 people were injured. The collapse was traced back to removal of critical structural supports that left a wall unsupported. Such demolition accidents are preventable. The risk of a worker or bystander being injured during demolition or a removal phase can be substantially mitigated by taking proper cautionary steps.

SPBMC is committed to helping hardworking demolition and construction professionals who have suffered injuries or illnesses. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.

Substantial Settlement For Failure to Diagnose Tongue Cancer

Patients suffer when medical doctors and dentists do not quickly act upon indicators of illnesses during routine check-ups. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo PC (SPBMC) represented a woman whose neglectful doctors made life unbearable in her final days.

Mary was a wife and mother in her 60s when, during a dental visit, a suspicious white spot was found on her tongue. She was referred to an oral surgeon who performed a biopsy and recommended, in his words, “careful, long-term, follow-up care.” He also told Mary that the spot would eventually need to be removed, but no urgency was required. This lackadaisical care and unprofessional attitude started a tumultuous sequence of events.

One year after the spot was discovered, another biopsy was performed which our expert later testified required removal at that point in time. However, that surgeon maintained the procedure was not critical and took no further action, until he ordered yet a third biopsy three months later. Incredibly and shamefully, those samples were taken from the wrong area of the tongue.

Disheartened, Mary returned to her first doctor. During the visit he used a laser to remove the spot but negligently never sent a specimen to pathology — proving he never confirmed what he removed or whether he caught all the dangerous tissue. While under the continued care of this doctor, Mary’s tongue became enlarged. She was living with constant pain that affected her ability to eat and swallow, and her tongue eventually became immobile. She finally visited a new physician who accurately evaluated her condition and explained that she had cancer that originated in her tongue. Had the prior doctors properly diagnosed her and removed the lesions, her survival chances would have been much more favorable.

As a result of the delay and continuous negligent treatment, Mary suffered catastrophic consequences: she had to have her tongue and larynx removed; she had to breathe through a tube; and was unable to speak, or eat or drink normally. This was how she lived in the days leading up to her tragic passing at age 67.

Mary’s family came to SPBMC for justice. We reviewed all the medical records and brought an action against several of the dentists and surgeons who were responsible for Mary’s poor treatment.

The trial commenced and testimony was taken. Since Mary had passed away by this time, the action was not only for her pain and suffering, but also for her wrongful death and the resultant loss to her grieving family. Our cancer experts explained that the negligent and careless delay of the diagnosis of Mary’s tongue cancer caused it to spread throughout her body. Before the case was submitted to the jury, the defendants agreed to settle and paid nearly $2.4 million to Mary’s family.

For many patients, the timely and proper treatment of any illness may mean the difference between life and death. If you think a serious condition could have been prevented or eliminated if not for a failure to diagnose a disease or injury, contact us immediately.

Fire Damage: Substantial Settlement Secured for NY Property Owner

Owners who fail to safeguard their buildings can be held responsible for damaging nearby properties and businesses. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC) represented an owner whose only building was destroyed due to the negligence of the adjacent property owner and their lack of fire prevention equipment.

While the defendant renovated part of a building in Manhattan, a fire broke out and spread uncontrollably into and throughout our client’s adjacent mixed-use property. The defendant’s building collapsed as a result of the fire and our client’s building was subsequently destroyed, including units occupied by commercial and residential tenants. The damage to both structures was so substantial that the New York City Fire Marshals could not enter the disaster sites to determine the cause of the blaze.

The building owner of the adjacent property, whose damages were caused by no fault of his own, came to us for justice. We commenced an action against the neighboring owner, claiming negligence for failing to maintain a properly operating fire extinguishing system. We also alleged that the renovations were mishandled, especially since appropriate fire-stopping equipment was not available.

The defendant denied responsibility and alleged that because the building was so old, it did not need (or could not accommodate) a fire extinguishing system. The defendant even went so far as to claim that there was nothing that they did – or failed to do – to cause the fire or its spread.

SPBMC has deep experience litigating fire-related claims and access to veteran fire safety and prevention experts whose testimonies have aided our many successes. During litigation we presented a fire analyst, a professional engineer and a property appraiser to explain to the jury the need for a proper extinguishing system and how its absence likely facilitated this disaster. They all supported our contention that the defendant was responsible for the fire spreading to our client’s building and its resultant destruction.

After several weeks of trial, we secured a $1.75 million settlement for the property destruction the defendant caused. Though the ordeal was devastating for our client – this building was his labor of love – he was ultimately was happy with the outcome, and told us our involvement made him whole again.

Premises liability claims like these are often complex, and plaintiffs and victims need a powerhouse firm capable of standing up to well-financed defense lawyers to protect your rights. SPBMC is committed to helping property owners and owning entities who have suffered property loss or damage due to the negligence of others. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York premises liability lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.

Failure To Respond To A Patient’s Post-Operative Complaints Can Result In Tragedy

Doctors and nurses have a duty to provide a hospitalized patient with thorough and appropriate care, and take all complaints seriously. Failure to do so can be extremely harmful. Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C. (SPBMC) represented a woman whose treatable post-operative symptoms went unnoticed and she suffered life-threatening consequences as a result.

Helen was a 50-year-old accountant who was hospitalized to remove her enlarged thyroid. Following the procedure, her blood calcium level dropped from her normal range and she was diagnosed with calcium deficiency. Even though calcium was ordered and placed by her bed, it was inexplicably never administered by the staff.

As the evening progressed, Helen’s difficulty swallowing made her increasingly nervous and agitated. She was seen by an attending hospital doctor who incorrectly determined that Helen was fine. The following morning, Helen complained of shortness of breath and increasedswelling of the operative site on her neck. Shortly after, the nurses noticed that Helen was indeed struggling for breath and experiencing respiratory failure. Though hospital staff restored Helen’s breathing, she lacked oxygen for too long and suffered brain damage. Tragically, this caused her to slip into a permanent coma.

Helen’s guardian came to us for justice. We claimed that the hospital staff failed to properly and timely treat Helen and that their failures constituted medical malpractice. During the trial we showed a jury that Helen’s respiratory failure was preventable. Helen’s mother testified that she had been at her daughter’s bedside throughout the hour that preceded the fateful incident. Her mother maintained that Helen repeatedly told her nurse of her breathing troubles, only to be dismissed as a normal post-operative occurrence. Our expert testified that Helen’s breathing distress and failure were caused by hypocalcemia (too little calcium in the body). The expert explained that when blood calcium levels are too low it can cause a substantial reduction in a patient’s ability to breathe and Helen’s symptoms were a textbook case of hypocalcemia. The expert testified that Helen’s condition could have been rectified by immediate dosages of calcium.

Although the hospital doctor was nearby and had been informed that Helen was struggling for breath, he inexcusably did not rush to her bedside. Had the doctor acted with the urgency Helen deserved, he could have given her the lifesaving calcium — which was in her room — that would have prevented brain damage.

Helen has unfortunately been in a vegetative state since the hospital stay and requires around-the-clock nursing care. We secured a multimillion-dollar settlement that will provide the necessary, full-time aid she needs.

For many patients, the correct post-surgical inspection and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. If you think a medical procedure caused or intensified your illness or injury, contact us immediately.


Safety Tips For Masons

Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, PC (SPBMC) has successfully represented masons and professionals who have been injured or killed while working with brick, concrete and stone on commercial and residential construction sites. This work is physically demanding because masons lift heavy materials and often must stand, kneel, and bend for long periods. Poor weather conditions may reduce work activity because masons usually work outdoors. Additionally, the materials used can be hazardous when they come in contact with bare skin.

Physical Injury

According to the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health, a bricklayer might lift the equivalent of 3.8 tons, or the equivalent of two small SUVs in one day, and might potentially lift the equivalent of 950 tons over the course of a year.

With that in mind, musculoskeletal injuries are among the most common suffered by bricklayers and masonry workers. We have represented clients who suffer from a disorder known as Repetitive Strain Injury, because repetitive forward bending is a contributing factor to musculoskeletal back injuries. These injuries involve muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and other soft tissues.

Some suggestions for safer lifting and work conditions include:

  • Keeping proper posture and maintaining a straight back is the basis for safely staging and lifting materials.
  • Don’t lift items that are too heavy by yourself. Instead, use a team or equipment.
  • Wear steel-toed boots, in case you drop tools or materials.
  • Use gloves as appropriate. Gloves provide better grip and protect hands from injuries.
  • Use dollies or carts to transport materials.


Skin Infection

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 40% of fatal accidents among masons stemmed from contact with objects and equipment. When hazardous materials are used, personal protective equipment (PPE), like gloves are necessary to reduce the risk of contact. Masonry cement can cause serious skin injuries, like caustic burns and illnesses like allergic dermatitis.

Some quick tips to protect your skin include:

  • Avoid contact with unhardened masonry cement.
  • If contact occurs, properly wash affected area with soap and water.
  • Should prolonged exposure to unhardened masonry cement products occur, wear impervious clothing and gloves to eliminate skin contact.


Brick, concrete and stone are often used to create, beautify and support structures. These materials are vital to the construction industry, but can be dangerous if not properly and safely handled and installed.  These risk factors can be mitigated by taking proper cautionary steps.

SPBMC is committed to helping hardworking masons and construction professionals who have sustained injuries or illnesses. If you need to speak with one of our experienced New York accident lawyers, we are pleased to offer a free consultation.