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A $2 million settlement has been reached in a case stemming from a shoulder injury a union laborer suffered when a 50-pound wooden scaffold fell on him from above, the worker’s attorney said. The settlement was reached last week shortly before the trial in Causland v. Sun Co. Inc. got underway, according to plaintiff’s attorney John Dooley of Pennsauken, N.J. The amount of the settlement could not immediately be independently confirmed. According to the chambers of Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark I. Bernstein, who was to preside over the trial, the court documents concerning the settlement are being processed and are currently unavailable. Joseph Van Horn Jr. of Bodell Bove Grace & Van Horn in Philadelphia, who served as defense counsel in Causland, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. According to court papers, the accident occurred in late January 2003. Causland, a pile driver and carpenter, was helping repair a collapsed cooling tower at a Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia. Causland stated in court papers that the wooden scaffold fell on him from the top portion of the partially repaired tower — a height of 15 feet — either when another worker mistakenly bumped it or a vibration caused it to rattle and fall. The defense stated in court papers that another worker in Causland’s vicinity had mistakenly caused the plank to fall. They also noted that while the other man was working about 15 feet above Causland, the two were laterally separated by a distance of about 12 feet. Causland asserted in court papers that there should have been precautions in place to prevent objects’ falling from the top area of the tower down upon workers below. The defense countered in court papers that proper precautions were taken; they again called attention to the fact that Causland was at a reasonably safe distance lengthwise from the other worker. Causland said that the injury to his right shoulder required an operation and continuing physical therapy, left him with lasting pain and has prevented him from returning to his usual line of work. The 41-year-old married father from Upper Darby, Pa. wrote in court papers that as a member of the Pile Drivers Local Union 454, he had earned $63,286 in wages in the year before his injury. Contesting the amount of damages sought, the defense wrote in court papers that Causland has acknowledged he is able to mow the lawn, do house work and even pitch a softball left-handed. They argued that his engaging in those activities indicates an ability to return to the workplace. Dooley said the parties engaged in two unsuccessful mediation attempts in October and November before Thomas Rutter of ADR Options before proceeding to trial. The plaintiffs originally demanded $5 million but later reduced that to $3.6 million. The defense’s highest offer was for $1.6 million, he said. The settlement was reached before the actual trial got underway but after a jury had been picked and Bernstein had ruled against a series of the defense’s motions in limine, according to Dooley. According to the Philadelphia common pleas docket, the settlement was agreed to Dec. 8. Dooley said Causland’s key witness at trial would have been Stephen Estrin, a Florida-based construction safety expert. Dooley also said he is particularly pleased with the result as both he and Causland are members of Local 454, and had met years earlier when Dooley, prior to becoming a lawyer, was employed as a pile driver.

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