1.7M for Construction Injury

Hubiak v. Stonehenge Development Co.: A heating, ventilation and airconditioning inspector who fell while working at a home under construction accepted a $1.7 million settlement of an Ocean County suit on July 1.

As Richard Hubiak was walking into a basement at the Stafford Township site on March 18, 1999, the stairs collapsed and he fell to the ground, hurting his coccyx and back, says his lawyer. Douglas Hanna of Wall's Hanna & Anderson. Hanna says the evidence showed that employees of Stonehenge Development Co., a builder, attached the stairs to the first floor with three nails to give plumbing workers access to the basement, but the stairway was never braced at the top or fastened at the bottom as required by safety codes and the manufacturer's instructions.

Hanna says Hubiak, now 47, who worked for Innovative Heating & Cooling of Lakewood can never hold a job again.

Stonehenge will pay $1.65 million, and a plumbing contractor, Haack Plumbing Co. of Beachwood, will pay $50,000. The worker's comp lien is $150,000. Superior Court Judge James Courtney, Jr. was the settling judge.

Defense lawyer Kevin Dochney of Marlton's Daniel & Dochney did not return a call on Thursday. Hanna says evidence available to the defense showed that Hubiak had two previous injuries, one to his knee that led to him being permanently disabled as a fire fighter in 1988. In addition, he had a back injury in 1993 that required surgery.

At the time of the settlement, a pending defense motion sought to bar testimony from a plaintiff's expert who had placed a $2.35 million value on Hubiak's loss of enjoyment of life after the injury. Hanna says the defense argued that such speculation was purely a jury matter, but the settlement obviated the need for a decision on the issue. - By Henry Gottliob