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Jury awards $8.7 million verdict to paraplegic man

Posted on Oct 05, 2007

Jury awards $8.7 million verdict to Four Corners man (10:28 a.m.) ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A Four Corners-area worker left a paraplegic after a fall from construction scaffolding has been awarded $8.7 million in damages. However, under state law, Donald Nelson and Priscilla Nelson will receive only about $3.5 million, which may be reduced further by repayment of workers' compensation benefits Donald Nelson received. An Albuquerque jury on Monday found the general contractor, Uselman Construction Co., negligent and awarded $7.67 million in damages to Donald Nelson for past and future medical expenses, lost earnings and other damages, and $1.02 million to Priscilla Nelson for loss of consortium. Nelson's attorneys argued at trial that Uselman failed to require that its subcontractors provide a safe means of access to the roof for workers at a construction site, an elementary school in Farmington. Nelson, a journeyman sheet metal worker, fell in 2001 from scaffolding that was not fully planked and was missing a cross brace as he was trying to reach a roof to help install a cooling unit. Attorney Earl Mettler said the scaffolding wobbled and fell. Mettler said there was nothing outrageous in the verdict. "Considering the medical needs and the other harms and losses that are major, it's really quite reasonable," he said. Jurors found Uselman Construction 41 percent at fault under New Mexico's comparative fault standard, which obligates the company for that proportion of the total. The jury assigned 15 percent of the fault to Nelson; 17 percent to his employer, Five Star Mechanical; and 27 percent to Les File Drywall, which set up the scaffolding. Five Star Mechanical and Les File Drywall were not named as defendants.

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