NYC Crane Collapse: Another Potential Prosecution or Merely an Non-Criminal Accident

According to reports, NYC is once again under siege from a wayward construction crane that collapsed from its perch near Hudson Yards. Though six people were injured, there were fortunately no deaths nor serious injuries after the crane caught fire, broke down, and cascaded towards the street below. Carrying sixteen tons of concrete, the crane, according to the NY Post, appears to be owned by the Lomma Crane Company. The now deceased James Lomma was previously indicted for Manslaughter and other crimes after a crane he owned crushed a man in 2008.  A Manhattan jury acquitted him of those charges in 2012.

With the above in mind, beyond potential civil exposure, could the crane company owner face criminal charges for this second Lomma crane accident? Without knowing what the evidence will reveal – the cause of the fire, the condition of the crane, whether the crane had been inspected and up to date with repairs, how it was secured, etc. – one cannot say whether the NYPD would arrest a proprietor and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would pursue criminal charges. However, what crimes could a crane owner or operator face in light of the fact that despite there being no deaths or serious injuries, a multi-ton crane could have wreaked havoc and worse on New Yorks below.

Crane Collapse: Potential Criminal Charges

Without knowing more, two crimes that could be charged, and I use the term “could” very loosely, is Reckless Endangerment. Reckless Endangerment is either a class “A” misdemeanor or a class “D” felony and do not necessitate that anyone was actually injured or died as a result of an accused’s behavior.

Second Degree Reckless Endangerment: Penal Law 120.20

In the simplest of terms, if you behave or act in a way that is so reckless that it creates a substantial danger of serious physical injury to another person, then you have run afoul of this misdemeanor. Reckless, under the law, is the type of conduct that not only establishes or makes out a substantial risk of serious physical injury to someone else, but unjustifiably so. Additionally, the charged person would have to know of the risk at hand and knowingly ignore it. Lastly, looking at both the risk itself and the disregarding of the same, the must act in such a manner that is a gross deviation from how a reasonable person would conduct him or herself. Keep in mind that “serious physical injury” is not merely any injury like a broken nose, but an injury that leaves a person facing a substantial risk of death or some other protracted health issue or impairment.

Second Degree Reckless Endangerment is punishable by as much as one year in jail.

First Degree Reckless Endangerment: Penal Law 120.25

What differentiates this felony offense from the far lesser misdemeanor is that an accused must act in a manner that is so reckless that it not only demonstrates he or she had a depraved indifference to the life of others, but that it also created a grave risk of death. While depraved indifference is a callous lack of care about potential horrific harm, a grave risk of death is characterized by a conscious indifference towards an unjustifiable risk that another person will die. Like the lesser degree crime, this disregard must also be a gross deviation from a reasonable person’s standard of conduct.

A far higher bar with more strenuous requirements, a conviction for First Degree Reckless Endangerment can land a defendant “upstate” for as much as two and one third to seven years.

Crane Collapse: Arrest of Crane Operator, Owner, or Another Person

Without additional information, it is hard to say what, if anything will happen. Sometimes an accident is simply an accident even if “crane prosecutions” do happen, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office previously prosecuted Lomma. No matter the past, any case should rise and fall on its own merits and evidence. To merely assume there was criminal recklessness would be unjust.

Founded by Jeremy Saland, a criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor, Saland Law, PC represents clients in criminal investigations, arrests, indictments, and trials throughout the New York City area.

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