The Secret to Minimizing Liability with Crane Collapses and Other On-Site Accidents

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorNew York–For the second time this year, a crane collapsed at a building site in New York City, bringing the death toll from crane collapses this year to nine, with 28 people injured.The Manhattan district attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the latest fatal crane accident on 91st St. and First Avenue, focusing on whether a part of the crane had been seriously damaged last year and then inappropriately put back into service.So how can developers avoid a mishap like this on their property and minimize their liability in the event that it does happen?“It’s all about risk transfer mechanisms,” James Frankel, a construction law attorney in the New York office of Arent Fox, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, tells MHN. Frankel has handled several structural failure and collapse cases and represented the city of New York in connection with claims arising out of the collapse of 7 World Trade Center relating to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.“The more the developer gets involved in the conversation about site safety the more he becomes responsible. A developer needs to transfer risk to the project manager or contractor by making them responsible through terms of the contract,” Frankel adds.Frankel says that owners and developers need to be responsible about the professionals they hire. “There needs to be careful management of contract language and how projects are purchased in the marketplace. The lowest bidder is not always the best. Quality is not cheap,” he says.While there are different laws that apply to different types of buildings, accidents like the crane collapse can come under labor and case laws under the state as well as federally mandated laws.