Jury Awards $68.5M to Family of Worker Who Fell to Death at Philly Construction Site

A Philadelphia jury has awarded $68.5 million in damages to the widow and son of a 38-year-old construction worker who was killed in 2021 in a fall from a fifth-floor balcony at a luxury townhouse site.

Siarhei Marhunou’s widow, Hanna, and the couple’s now three-year-old son, brought negligence, wrongful death and survival action litigation against the developer and contractors.

The five-unit Fitler Square townhouse cluster at 2330 Sansom Street was being developed by Ori Feibush through several of his affiliated companies and other subcontractors. His OCF Construction, LLC, was the general contractor.

Marhunou, working for another subcontractor DPSY, Inc., was installing siding when he fell about 50 feet through a temporary wooden railing to the ground from a fifth-floor balcony.

Marhunou’s attorneys Jeffrey P. Goodman and Aidan B. Carickhoff from Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky said there were numerous violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other construction-site safety requirements, which call for extensive fall protections when workers are more than six feet above the ground.

As Marhunou fell, he came into contact with guard rails attached to the side of the balcony. However, the railings were “grossly inadequate, defectively installed, and in violation of numerous safety regulations,” Marhunou’s lawyers maintained. When Marhunou came into contact with a guard rail, it gave way, causing him to fall to his death.

The lawsuit charged that the defendants failed to install or implement adequate fall protection on the balcony, contrary to OSHA regulations and despite the fact that falls are one of the leading causes of serious injury and death on construction projects.

The $68.5 million jury award included $13.5 million under the survival statute plus $55 million under the wrongful death statute ($25 million for Marhunou’s wife and $30 million for his son). The jury allocated the damages according to fault to various defendants: Fitler Construction Group, 20%; OCF Construction, 50%; 2330 Sansom Street LLC, 20%; HSC Construction, 9%; and Hammers Construction, 1%. Only Hammers and HSC were not Feibush-affiliated businesses.

“The evidence in this case showed OCF cut corners on this project at every turn, and it had tragic consequences,” commented attorney Carickhoff. “Management of this construction project was a labyrinth of corporate structure designed to protect the developers. Instead, construction projects need to be set up to protect workers. The jury saw through OCF’s shell games.”

The case was tried in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.