A 57-year-old East Haven man who fell 10 feet after the rusted steps in an exterior stairway at his apartment complex gave way has settled his case for $375,000.
Kirk Trofatter broke his knee cap, upper leg and left shoulder during the fall at 32 Old Foxon Rd. in East Haven in May 2015, according to a lawsuit filed in New Haven Superior Court. Two of the rusting steps on the stairway collapsed, sending Trofatter plummeting to the landing below. Trofatter was on the top stairway between the second and third floors, according to his attorney, Frank Bartlett.
The case was mediated in front of retired Judge Jonathan Silbert on Sept. 12. There was a follow-up conference call Jan. 24, and the case was resolved Jan. 26. The money was paid out Thursday.
Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Legal Group in Cheshire, said his case was helped in deposition by Morris Jacobs, owner of New York-based D&D Builders, which owns the 60-unit apartment complex. Bartlett said he made weekly inspections of all of the complex’s staircases and noted the steps in question were rusty.
“He said he did not think it was an issue that needed to be addressed. That was a large motivating factor in the defendant agreeing upon the number that Judge Silbert came up with,” Bartlett said.
Two other people fell from separate rusty steps in different parts of the complex before Trofatter’s fall, Bartlett said. D&D Builders only fixed the stairs in question as opposed to all of the stairs in the complex.
The two sides were far apart before Silbert recommended $375,000. The attorneys for D&D Builders and the West Haven-based Haven Management initially offered $150,000, while Bartlett’s initial demand was $750,000. Haven Management is the property management company.
One bone of contention during negotiations was whether Trofatter should have been on the stairway at all.
“We argued he was in an exterior stairway, while the defense argued it was a fire escape that should not have been used. He went out there to pick up trash he saw on the stairs,” Bartlett said.
Trofatter was unemployed for about a year before the accident, but was slated to start work as an emergency medical technician. Trofatter was not able to work due to his injuries, Bartlett said.
“Today, he has difficulty walking, difficulty with overhead movement of his left arm and with lifting,” Bartlett said.
To date, Trofatter, who was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, has spent about $72,000 in medical treatment, Bartlett said.
“He is happy to put this behind him,” Bartlett said. “This will provide him with the financial ability to finally move out of the complex, which is what he wanted to do.”
David Crotta of Mulvey, Oliver, Gould & Crotta in Hamden represented the defendants. Crotta did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The money was paid via Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Co., a branch of the IAT Insurance Group.