On the sixth anniversary of a deadly construction crane collapse, two slain workers’ families watched Friday as a judge declared a mistrial in their wrongful-death case because the crane owner was hospitalized from a car crash.

Opening statements had been underway for days when James Lomma’s lawyers asked Thursday to halt the trial, saying their client had been severely hurt in a wreck before jury selection concluded last week. But Manhattan Justice Manuel Mendez said Friday he felt he had no choice but to stop it.

Lomma isn’t expected to come to court for two to three months, Mendez said after seeing a police accident report and talking to Lomma’s surgeon. “It is only fair to allow Mr. Lomma … to be present at trial,” Mendez said, saying Lomma had been “incapacitated through no acts of his own.”

Lomma wasn’t required to be at the civil trial, but his lawyer had argued that he was a key witness and that his absence would harm his defense.

As the workers’ relatives—some of whom had flown in from Kosovo—looked on with tears and sighs, their lawyers urged the judge to keep the trial going. Lawyer Susan Karten said the families might appeal Mendez’s decision. In the meantime, the judge dismissed the jury and set a Sept. 9 date to start over with new jurors.

Lomma’s lawyer, Glenn Fuerth, declined to comment. He has said the extent of his client’s injuries wasn’t immediately apparent.