A jury ordered New York Crane and Equipment Corp. owner James Lomma and his companies to pay $47.8 million to the families of two New York construction workers who died when a crane collapsed on their job site in 2008.
Lomma blamed the equipment operator, 30-year-old Donald Leo, for the fatal crash that killed Leo and co-worker Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, who was crushed by debris after the 200-foot-tall crane snapped and fell to the ground. But the families countered that Lomma did not have the crane properly repaired when a weld on its turntable cracked.
The jury award came after 110 days of testimony and three days of deliberations, despite Lomma’s 2012 acquittal on criminal charges — including manslaughter — that prosecutors had filed against him in the case. Lomma, who calls himself “the King of Cranes,” rents cranes and other heavy equipment to contractors.
A former Department of Buildings officials told The New York Daily News that the agency has “cracked down on crane operators” by requiring additional training and stepping up oversight since the fatal accident, which was the second involving a crane in 2008. The first killed seven and injured 24.
Just two weeks ago, a wayward crane in Queens, NY, dropped a steel bean onto train tracks, damaging the rails and temporarily shutting down service. The week before that, a crane at a New Jersey construction site collapsed at an electric company substation, snapping telephone poles in half before striking a car. Nobody was injured in either accident.
Still, news reports indicate that more than a dozen accidents involving cranes occurred in July across the country, several of them in New York.