A Northeast Philadelphia carpentry foreman has won a $10 million settlement of a lawsuit he filed against a Delaware County contractor after he was critically injured during construction of a Delaware River waterfront apartment high-rise in Old City.

Michael Little, 43, was forced to retire after he slipped and fell in 2016 on an ice-covered hallway at the One Water Street building, then under construction on Columbus Boulevard. He has had five surgical procedures on his right ankle and leg, walks with a cane, and suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, according to the suit.

His lawsuit was settled Oct. 25, when First State Mechanical of Boothwyn agreed to pay $8.05 million and a Chester County subcontractor agreed to pay $1.95 million.

“Just getting out of bed,” Little said in an interview, “it used to take me 15 minutes to get up and out the door. Now, I still think I can do that and I make plans, and I’m a half-hour or 45 minutes late. Pretty much everyday life is affected now.”

Michael Little (left) with his attorney, Brian Fritz
Mensah M. Dean
Michael Little (left) with his attorney, Brian Fritz

Little said he still suffers anxiety over not having been able to help his wife recover from a heart attack or to serve as a pallbearer at the funeral of his brother Steven, 38, who died of brain cancer in 2017.

“Every Tuesday, my boss would let me leave work at 9 o’clock to take care of my brother at chemo,” he said. “Once this happened, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do anything.”

The accident happened on the morning of Feb. 15, 2016, when an employee of subcontractor Sulpizio Mechanical accidentally drilled a hole into a water line, filling a ground floor hallway with water that quickly froze. Little, who had been working at the site for six months, slipped on the ice after a First State Mechanical foreman, who was in the hallway to warn workers about walking on the ice, left the premises for a time, the lawsuit said.

Little, who was earning more than $100,000 a year as a carpentry foreman, was entitled to the $10 million settlement due to future life care, estimated to cost as much as $3 million, and wage losses estimated at up to $7 million, said his Center City attorney, Brian Fritz.

Fritz alleged that the First State foreman had left the job site to obtain opioids and later was fired.

“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.

Foreman Michael Little was injured during construction of One Water Street, a 190-foot-high apartment building on the Delaware River in Old City.
Foreman Michael Little was injured during construction of One Water Street, a 190-foot-high apartment building on the Delaware River in Old City.

“There’s recognition that there was a complete failure to make sure that this was a safe workplace,” Fritz said.

Pittsburgh attorney Brian S. Kane, who represented First State, said the case and its resolution had nothing to do with opioid abuse, which he called an unsubstantiated allegation.

“The decision to settle the case without the admission of liability was driven by the serious and significant nature of Mr. Little’s injuries, and for that reason only,” Kane said.

Center City attorney John A. Livingood Jr., who represented Sulpizio, did not return phone calls seeking comment.