Man awarded $500,000 in negligence suit against Boothbay Harbor construction firm

Posted May 20, 2013, at 6:56 p.m.

WISCASSET, Maine — A Lincoln County Superior Court jury on Friday awarded an Edgecomb man $500,000 in damages for injuries he suffered while working for Groton Construction Co. of Boothbay Harbor.

In February 2010, Edwin “Skip” White, now 56, fell 15 feet from an elevated porch onto a granite ledge while working as a construction contractor on a home Groton Construction was renovating in East Boothbay, according to White’s attorney, Jeffrey Cohen. White suffered serious knee, shoulder, face and head injuries.

Cohen, a managing partner at Topsham law firm McTeague Higbee, said the porch was not properly guarded against falls, a situation he described as the company’s “culture of carelessness.”

“Substantial evidence was introduced during the trial actually documenting, in photographs, many shockingly dangerous situations on various construction sites that the company subjected its workers to,” Cohen said.

In White’s case, Cohen said, Groton Construction failed to take safety precautions such as using safety harnessess, railings or netting.

“Had they done any one of those things, Mr. White would not have fallen,” he said.

Reached Monday afternoon, Neal Groton, owner of Groton Construction, referred calls to his attorney, Kenneth Pierce of Portland law firm Monahan Leahy.

“Mr. White was working off a stepladder and leaning out over an open porch to a drop of about 9 feet, and he was leaning against a safety rail they had installed,” Pierce said Monday. He said the 3-foot-high railing was made of two-by-fours.

Groton Construction supplies workers with industrial platforms with a wide and stable work surface, called Baker Scaffolding, Pierce said. Groton “always told his [subcontractors] to use the Baker staging whenever possible, but the plaintiff chose to use the ladder, he pushed against the rail and he fell, and he got hurt,” he said.

“I thought Mr. Groton did a good job of running a safe workplace,” Pierce said. “Mr. White was 52 years old, and had worked on dozens of job sites … he should have known better than to work on a ladder over a railing and lean out over the safety rails.”

Cohen said an expert witness testified that the railing Pierce described “was completely insufficient as a safety railing and did not meet OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] or any standard safety criteria.”

The jury initially awarded White $800,000, but found that he also held some responsibility for the injury, so reduced that award to $500,000, Cohen said.

Cohen said the $500,000 judgment takes into account White’s medical expenses, pain and suffering and reduced income both because he was unable to work for nearly two years and because “his injuries prevent him from resuming full-time construction.”

Through his attorney, White said the settlement will save his family from being “financially ruined” by health care costs.

Beth Brogan can be reached at bbrogan@bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @Beth_Brogan.

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