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SKETCHES OF COURT: Verdict in favor of electrocuted plaintiff in labor law trial

July 29, 2016 By Alba Acevedo Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Court sketch by Alba Acevedo
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In this courtroom sketch, Hon. Edgar Walker listens as plaintiff’s attorney Dominique Penson (standing), of the law firm Barasch, McGarry, Salzman & Penson, conducts a direct examination in the labor law trial John Anthony Hegarty v. BG National Plumbing & Heating, City of New York, NYC Dept. of Education, and the NYC School Construction AuthorityPenson is accompanied by co-counsel Bruce Kaye, at left. 

In July of 2010, a renovation project was underway at I.S. 291 in Bushwick, which included an upgrade to the school’s air conditioning system. The work was interrupted by the unexpected discovery of electrical conduit pipes encased in concrete that were being cleared for the installation of ducts. Hegarty, a journeyman-electrician, was employed by the subcontractor tasked with rerouting the wiring. 

In order to accommodate rather than relocate the renovation, the rigid conduits would be cut and replaced with flexible and longer conduits that could be fitted around the ductwork, and Hegarty would splice in additional wiring. Hegarty, who is pictured on the witness stand, is seated before a display depicting a conduit such as the one on which he was working. 

While the intention was to de-energize the circuit at the time any work was being performed, yet maintain other electricity to the occupied building, any safeguards proved insufficient. Hegarty was electrocuted, and Penson accused the defendants of violating labor law in failing to protect against that risk. Penson maintained that circumstances dictated that all power to the building should have been interrupted.

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Mathew Ross (seated, right), of the law firm Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, represented the defendants. He claimed that given the constraint of having to provide electricity for activities in other parts of the building, the subcontractor had arrived at a reasonable plan to mitigate any risk. Additionally, Ross sought to implicate Hegarty as comparatively negligent. He maintained that in light of Hegarty’s professional standing at a high level of his trade, he should have known better than to continue the work under the unusual circumstances.  

The jury found that the defendants were liable under section 241(6) of the labor law, and that the plaintiff was not comparatively negligent. The damages phase of the trial is expected to continue this fall, in Kings County Civil Term. Court reporter Robert Frankel (center), recorded the proceedings. 

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