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Fatal Crane Collapse Causes City To Be Fined
April 6, 2010

A judge fined the Bloomberg administration $5,000 on Tuesday for repeatedly ignoring court orders to provide the families of two construction workers who died in a 2008 crane collapse with documents, e-mail messages and other information concerning equipment inspected by the city.

The families of the two workers, Donald C. Leo and Ramadan Kurtaj, filed lawsuits against the crane company, its owner, the city's Buildings Department and others, alleging negligence and corruption in connection with the collapse of the crane, on East 91st Street, in May 2008.

Lawyers for the families had sought copies of all communications concerning the crane from the Buildings Department. They also wanted to prevent the city from conducting tests on the crane outside the presence of the families and their experts.

The judge, Paul G. Feinman of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, found that the city had repeatedly failed to comply with court orders to provide the documents and was in "flagrant disregard" of a court order requiring the city to provide adequate notice of any crane tests. He ordered the city to compensate the families $2,500 each for legal fees.

"It behooves the mayor to ask the city's lawyers to stop this kind of obfuscation and to turn over crucial documents in this case," said Susan M. Karten, a lawyer for Mr. Kurtaj's family.

The city's Law Department said that it disagreed with the court's ruling. "We strongly believe," said Kate O'Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman, "that we did not violate any court orders and are considering our legal options."

Last month, the owner of the crane company, James F. Lomma, was indicted on manslaughter charges in connection with the accident. Prosecutors said that Mr. Lomma, or one of his employees at New York Crane and Equipment, had failed to repair the crane's broken turntable properly, which contributed to the collapse in which the two men died.

All of the defendants pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Lomma hired a Chinese company to repair the crane's turntable for $20,000 about 10 months before the accident, after an Ohio company said it would charge $120,000 for the job. The Chinese company, however, had expressed misgivings about its ability to weld the damaged part.

Michael Carbone, a city inspector who later resigned after being accused of neglect of duty, approved the use of the crane in New York.

Last month the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said that New York Crane had taken shortcuts to get the crane back in operation quickly and to save money. "Greed and recklessness, motivated by profit, led to the tragic and unnecessary deaths of the two men," he said.


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