The Real Deal New York

Azure crane victims’ families win nearly $50 million judgment

Crane mogul James Lomma's legal team plans to appeal

July 31, 2015 08:34AM

Azure crane collapse and James Lomma

Azure crane collapse and James Lomma

The families of two construction workers killed in the Azure crane collapse in 2008 were awarded $48 million in damages.

Donald Leo and Ramadan Kurtaj died in May of that year at the site of the Azure Condominium at 33 East 91st Street when the 200-foot-tall crane, owned by James Lomma, snapped and fell to the ground. A Manhattan Supreme Court jury this week found Lomma 61 percent liable after attorneys for the victims’ families argued that faulty crane equipment and Lomma’s “greed” contributed to the fatal accident.

The New York Crane and Equipment Corporation owner was ordered to pay $32 million to the family of Leo, the operator, and $15.8 million to that of Kurtaj, who was crushed by debris, the New York Daily News reported.

Lomma was acquitted of all criminal charges related to the incident when, in 2012, his attorneys successfully argued the accident was caused by Leo.

The crane owner’s legal team made the same arguments in this case, but failed to convince the jury. An attorney for the Leo family blamed the crash on a broken weld on the crane’s turntable. Instead of having the cracked turntable repaired domestically, Lomma sent it out to China to save money and time. The mechanic he placed in charge of overseeing the repairs pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in 2011.

A previous civil case against Lomma ended in a mistrial, when Lomma, injured in a car accident, was unable to appear in court. [NYDN] – Ariel Stulberg