Trial over 2008 crane collapse moved up

Court date for victim's elderly father set for April 28

Site of the Azure crane collapse in 2008
Site of the Azure crane collapse in 2008

The family of a construction worker killed in a 2008 Manhattan crane collapse was granted trial preference by a New York state judge Wednesday.

The judge made the ruling because the victim’s father, Uke Kurtaj, is over 70 years old and relied on his son Ramadan Kurtaj for income, Law360 reported. Trial preference, which provides for an earlier court date, is granted, among other reasons, when a litigant is in danger of financial destitution or could pass away before a trial gets underway.

The accident at 333 East 91st Street on First Avenue killed two workers: crane operator Donald Christoper Leo and Ramadan Kurtaj. In December 2008, Leo’s father, Donald, sued the Mattone Group, co-developer the DeMatteis Organization, crane operator New York Crane & Equipment and its owner James Lomma, as well as various city agencies, including the Department of Buildings and the New York City Educational Construction Fund.

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The Mattone Group had argued that it was not involved with and had no ownership interest in the Azure project, and hence cannot be held liable for any incidents at the site. In April 2013, a judge ruled that “at the very least, Mattone is holding itself out to the public as somehow involved in the Azure project.” The following month, a New York State Supreme Court ruled that the city cannot deny liability for damage stemming from the collapse, despite having transferred ownership to another entity.

Xhevahire Sinanaj, a co-administrator of Kurtaj’s estate, sought a trial to recover damages resulting from Ramadan Kurtaj’s death, according to Law360. Trial preference was granted preliminarily in June 2013, pending a period of discovery that has since closed. An affidavit and copy of Uke Kurtaj’s birth certificate established that Kurtaj is now over 70 years of age, Judge Manuel Mendez wrote.

A trial is now set for April 28. [Law360]Julie Strickland