Appeals court cuts $60M off verdict against “King of Cranes”

Victims' families will now receive $35M

James Lomma and the site at 33 East 91st Street (Credit: Getty Images)
James Lomma and the site at 33 East 91st Street (Credit: Getty Images)

A Manhattan Appeals Court cut the “King of Cranes” a break on Wednesday, slashing $60 million off of jury awards related to a fatal crane collapse in 2008.

The appellate panel reduced the $95 million judgment against James Lomma to $35 million, finding that the awards were “excessive,” the New York Post reported. A jury had awarded $39.5 million to the family Donald Leo Jr., who fell 240 feet to his death when the bearing on Lomma’s Kodiak crane cracked. The jury gave $55.5 million to the family of Ramadan Kurtaj, who was crushed by the machinery.

Under the appeals court’s ruling, Leo’s family will receive $16 million and Kurtaj’s will get $19 million.

“We hope going forward the construction industry takes heed of this and it will be safety first,” Bernadette Panzella, an attorney for Leo’s mother, told the Post.

An attorney for Kurtaj’s family, Susan Karten, said, “The Court is signifying that it is no longer business as usual and by their decision are providing a significant disincentive to those players in the Industry who place safety last and far below the profit margin.”

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An attorney for Lomma, Nathaniel Marmur, said his client “did not receive a fair opportunity at trial to prove that this devastating accident was not [his company’s] fault.” He said that they are “confident that further appellate review will vindicate our position.”

In the 2015 trial, the jury found Lomma 61 percent liable for the fatal accident. Shortly thereafter, Lomma filed for bankruptcy in January 2016.

In March, victims families said Lomma is actually worth $200 million but hasn’t paid out a dime[NYP] — Kathryn Brenzel