From Patch

Mike Little represents a new group of victims in the opioid crisis—those hurt at work because of another worker’s addiction 

Mike Little’s life will never be the same after a February 2016 construction site accident in Center City left him unable to work ever again as an union carpenter. Little’s right leg was permanently injured when he slipped and fell on an icy surface after a water pipe burst. A settlement awarded Little a sum of $10 million, said his attorney, Brian Fritz, of the law firm Fritz and Bianculli in Philadelphia.

Fritz said that two of the defendants funded the settlement. Sulpizio Mechanical paid $1,950,000 in damages and First State Mechanical paid $8,050,000 for a total settlement of $10 million.

A resident of Northeast Philadelphia, Little, now 43, was working as a union carpenter as a member of Local 158 on the One Water Street Project. Contractor, First State Mechanical, was responsible for the work that ruptured the water line when the accident occurred. Its subcontractor, Sulpizio, drilled into the water line. Then, First State’s supervisor, an admitted opioid abuser, had abandoned the resulting icy conditions to allegedly visit a break truck. As a result, nothing was in place to warn workers of the unexpected hazard, and Little was injured.

“This case and settlement involve a whole new group of victims of the opioid epidemic – those hurt on the job site as a result of someone else’s addiction,” Fritz said. “And, unfortunately, this may be the first reported settlement in such a case, but it will not be the last.”

Since the accident, Little’s life has taken many bad turns, especially for his close family. His younger brother, Stephen, passed away and Little was unable to be a pall bearer at his funeral. Before that, his wife, Melissa, suffered her own health problems and he wasn’t physically able to care for her. As well as, the multiple surgeries he has undergone and an uncertain future he continuously faced.

“This case is a wake-up call to all construction contractors,” said Fritz. “The opioid epidemic is everywhere—including the construction site. Contractors have a responsibility to make sure they only employ safe and sober individuals. Not doing so presents a real risk of physical harm to the addict, as well as others on the jobsite, and today’s settlement indicates the possible economic consequences that employer faces too.”