Family of NYC security guard crushed by glass in horrific Billionaires’ Row construction accident locked in ugly legal war
Queens NY October 22 2019
The family of a security guard who died tragically at the city’s tallest residential tower is now reliving their grief because the owners of the Billionaires’ Row building and an insurance company are refusing to pay for their loss.
Harry Ramnauth, 67, had no way of knowing when he left his Queens home on May 26, 2018 that he would never see his wife or daughter again. That day, Ramnauth, a guard with Eddington Security, was struck and crushed by a 2,300 lb. plate glass window.
The general circumstances leading up to the accident aren’t in dispute. Ramnauth was working security at the towering 217 W. 57th St. construction site when the glass toppled onto him and crushed him.
What lawyers are fighting over is whether Ramnauth suffered, and if he did, for how long — a key detail that could determine whether the family gets a sizeable payout, or none at all.
Harry Ramnauth was a security guard who was killed on May 26, 2018 when was struck and crushed by a 2,300 lb. plate glass window.
According to an investigation conducted by one of the site’s contractors, Lend Lease, Teamster steward Mark Kiesecker triggered the fatal chain reaction that led to the accident.
At about 10:25 a.m. that day, Kiesecker tried to move a piece of ductwork near a loading dock, the investigation found. The ductwork was wedged between a rack, which was holding the 8- by 14-foot glass panel, and a pallet. When Kiesecker moved it, the panel slammed into Ramnauth.
Workers rushed to aide him, but struggled with the panel’s weight.
“Many of us tried to lift the window,” recalled his colleague and friend Augustine Martinez in a teary deposition. “I called 911.”
A fire department dispatcher got a call at 10:32 a.m. and within a minute sent EMTs to help, an FDNY ambulance report shows.
According to an investigation, Teamster steward Mark Kiesecker triggered the fatal chain reaction that led to the accident. At about 10:25 a.m. that day, Kiesecker tried to move a piece of ductwork near a loading dock. The ductwork was wedged between a rack, which was holding the 8- by 14-foot glass panel, and a pallet. When Kiesecker moved it, the panel slammed into Ramnauth.
According to an investigation, Teamster steward Mark Kiesecker triggered the fatal chain reaction that led to the accident. At about 10:25 a.m. that day, Kiesecker tried to move a piece of ductwork near a loading dock. The ductwork was wedged between a rack, which was holding the 8- by 14-foot glass panel, and a pallet. When Kiesecker moved it, the panel slammed into Ramnauth. (Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
They arrived at 10:36 a.m. to find a “completely crushed patient” whose right tibia and fibula were shattered and protruding from his skin. According to their report, Ramnauth — though in cardiac arrest when they arrived — appears to have been alive as they rushed him to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Martinez estimated it took between 15 and 20 men to lift the glass off him. The paramedics tried CPR and gave him an IV, but they couldn’t save Ramnauth.
The autopsy lists the cause of death as blunt force trauma of the neck and torso. Ramnauth was pronounced dead at 11:02 a.m., hospital records show.
In the cold calculus of the legal world, the length of time between when the glass plate struck him and when Ramnauth took his last breath is of critical importance in his family’s wrongful death suit.
State law dictates family members in wrongful death cases are entitled to compensation for three reasons: loss of parental guidance, loss of a breadwinner’s salary or the conscious pain and suffering the now deceased experienced immediately before death.
In this case, Ramnauth left behind a family, but his daughter is grown, which courts tend to place a much lower value on. He made just upwards of $32,000 a year and was already past retirement age, so any settlement stemming from the fact the family lost a breadwinner would be minimal.
That leaves the question of what conscious pain he suffered before dying. And on this point, the developer and its insurance company are at extreme odds with the position of Ramnauth’s family.
Ramnauth’s family, the construction site developer, Extell, the developer’s insurance company, AIG, as well as contractor Pinnacle Industries are now locked in that very battle.
Ramnauth’s wife and daughter claim he suffered an excruciating death. The construction site developer Extell and its insurance company AIG, as well as the contractor Pinnacle Industries, disagree.
“They’re selling condos for $30 million, and they don’t want to pay his family,” said Matthew Haicken, the family’s lawyer. “Under New York law, a quick death isn’t worth as much as a slow, agonizing death. A quick death isn’t worth much in New York.”
Haicken noted that an expert witness is prepared to testify that Ramnauth remained alive and awake for six to eight minutes from the time of the accident until he lost consciousness. He proposed the defendants pay $4.75 million to settle the case, but according to him they refused. A settlement conference is scheduled for December. If a settlement is not reached, the case will go to trial.
Attorneys for the defendants did not respond to multiple messages. AIG declined to comment.
Under current state law, it’s quite possible the defendant could win this legal fight. But there are some lawmakers in Albany who believe that law should change.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) is pushing a bill that would allow a family’s emotional anguish and loss to be considered in wrongful death cases. New York is one of nine states without a law that does that.
“Why should Mr. Ramnauth’s life be valued at less than anyone else’s?” he said. “As it’s written now, the law only considers his economic worth.”
NY Daily News