Worker Who Fell Through Glass Floor at Rodin Museum Gets $7.25M Settlement

The harrowing fall was captured on security cameras.

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This story has been updated with a statement from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Phani Guthula had been inspecting light fixtures at the Rodin Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway, on November 26, 2012, when the glass attic floor cracked, sending him on a 38-foot fall that nearly killed him, according to a statement from his lawyers this morning. 

Security footage captured his fall which took place while the museum was open for visitors. Guthula, an energy efficiency worker for ICF International, suffered numerous injuries including multiple fractures. He was hospitalized for 45 days, underwent more than 15 surgeries, and will need life-long medical care, attorneys said.

“One of the Rodin’s most famous sculptures is titled Gates of Hell,” said Larry Bendesky, a member of Guthula’s legal team. “The chilling picture of Phani Guthula falling nearly to his death could have the same title; his life has been a living hell every day since his fall. His accident was totally preventable had those responsible for his safety just done their job.”

A settlement for $7.5 million was reached Friday, right before jury selection was to begin for the case, the Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky firm which represented Guthula wrote in a statement. Guthula had filed the suit against the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which owns the Rodin Museum, and Allied Barton Security Services, who lawyers claim were negligent of safety precautions.

“Guard railings installed to keep people off the glass floor were not in place, security personnel who escorted him to the site were uninformed and inattentive, and there was no signage to warn against a fall hazard to which everyone – after the accident – agreed existed when he almost met his death,” Attorney David Kwass said.

The museum confirms the settlement, but disputes the lawyers’ claims that proper signage was not in place.

“The Museum confirms that it has participated in the settlement of a dispute related to the tragic accident in 2012 at the Rodin Museum,” said  Philadelphia Museum of Art spokesman Norman Keyes a statement. “Contrary to the press release issued by the lawyers for the plaintiff, the settlement involved several parties in addition to the Museum. Unfortunately, the lawyers’ press release contains other inaccurate statements about the accident — most notably the incorrect assertion that the Museum had not provided appropriate signage and other safety precautions in the attic spaces of the Rodin Museum.”

The fall happened shortly after $9 million renovations on the museum had been completed.

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