Undocumented Immigrant Wins $4M

Daniela Gerson, New York Sun, Mar. 8

A Bronx day laborer injured on the job has won a $4 million settlement, his lawyers announced yesterday, describing it as the largest payout to an undocumented immigrant in history.

In the early afternoon on October 18, 2001, the worker, who is Mexican, crashed 30 feet to the ground when the scaffolding supporting him at a Bronx construction site collapsed. He survived but sustained grave injuries, including loss of vision in his right eye, brain damage, liver and kidney lacerations, a collapsed lung, loss of his sense of smell, and broken teeth.

The 33-year-old immigrant was hospitalized for three months, at a loss about how to support his three children and wife, who live with him at the Bronx. Living in this country illegally and working off the books, he considered a lawsuit against his employer only after his brother visited an advocacy group in the city on his behalf, the injured worker said yesterday.

The laborer is carefully guarding his identity. Wearing beige work boots and a black New York City cap, he expressed fear that family members would be kidnapped in his native Puebla if the windfall were to be disclosed.

“The lesson today for all the undocumented immigrants of New York is they have the same rights to access the courts in New York City as any American citizen. Our client came, the family of our client came, to the association believing they didn’t have any rights because they were undocumented,” the lawyer in the case, Brian O’Dwyer of O’Dwyer and Bernstein LLP, said at a press conference yesterday.

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The director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law at New York University School of Law, Samuel Estreicher, confirmed that, as far as he was aware, it was the largest labor settlement paid to a single undocumented immigrant.

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