Woman injured in lift accident to file suit

Posted: October 20, 2009

NOTE: THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED.

Dorothy Ramos, 75, was walking to the supermarket last Monday when she saw an aerial lift crashing into the roof of a Center City apartment building and falling toward her.

Ramos held up her forearm to protect her head. But the impact of the 125-foot boom broke her left arm and crushed her elbow.

She fell face-first to the ground under the boom, as debris and bricks from the roof pounded her, fracturing her spine.

"She was trying to save her life," said Ramos's attorney Bernard Smalley Sr.

Yesterday Smalley and co-counsel Miriam Benton Barish, of Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman and Smalley, P.C., filed a notice of their plans to sue Masonry Preservation Group, Inc., (MPG) of Merchantville, N.J., and First Presbyterian Church, of 21st near Walnut, on Ramos's behalf, in the Oct. 12 accident.

They expect to file a complaint in Common Pleas Court within 30 days. Both MPG and church officials declined to comment.

The aerial-lift operator, James Wilson, 41, was killed, and two others besides Ramos were injured.

Wilson, who operated the lift from a bucket at the end of the boom, was repairing loose masonry on the church, when a huge wheel of the lift platform ran over a fiberglass and cement TV-cable box embedded in the sidewalk, witnesses said.

The weight of the heavy machinery broke the cover of the cable box and destabilized the lift, causing it to slowly fall, taking down a streetlight, gashing out a section of the roof of an apartment building and landing on a Verizon truck while Wilson was still harnessed to the lift's bucket, according to witnesses.

Ramos fell under the lift and tried to push it off of her, as passers-by and motorists ran to her rescue, witnesses said.

She and the two other injured victims were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Wilson was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"The injuries to [Ramos's] left elbow and left forearm are significant," said Smalley. "I don't know whether the injuries to her back are going to be permanent."

The 5-foot-7 slightly-built victim "fractured vertebrae in her back when debris and bricks fell on her," he added. "But we do not know about the long-term effects of the fractured vertebrae.

"From both a physical and emotional standpoint, her injuries are substantial," he added. She is seeing doctors to determine the extent, and permanence, of them.

The legal action puts MPG and the church on notice, as Ramos's attorneys subpoena documents in an ongoing investigation of the accident, said Smalley. He declined to estimate the amount of damages being sought until after their investigation.

The lawyers are looking into whether proper permits for the work were obtained for the masonry repair, or if there were violations by the city Licenses and Inspections Department or the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

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