As lawyers who fight for the rights of construction workers (BOM Attorneys), we have long been pointing to worker safety violations and characterizing them as “Civil Rights Issues.’ Now a member of law enforcement is taking the rarely employed, but welcome, step of criminalizing a failure to provide appropriate safety devices to workers at a construction site. Indeed, he is charging the accused with a homicide.
A Brooklyn construction company owner has been indicted on Manslaughter charges for failing to provide a safe place to work for Vidal Sanchez-Roman, a worker who plummeted to his death at a construction site last year. The indictment charges Salvatore Schirripa, owner of J & M Metro Gen. Contracting Corp. with failing to comply with basic worker safety laws that led to the death of the 50-year-old construction worker.
The indictment stems from a tragic fall that took place on April 1, 2015 at 360 Neptune Avenue in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. The accident took place at approximately 11:00 AM. The thrust of the allegations are that the deceased was compelled to work along the edge of the buildings perimeter, outside of a protective fence, more than 50 feet off the ground, without any fall protection. As Mr. Sanchez-Roman was walking backwards at the edge of the building, smoothing concrete in front of him, he inadvertently reached the edge of the building and fell 6 floors to his death.
How could this tragedy have been prevented? Simple fall protection devices, like a harness, would have avoided this fatal fall. The safety device would have arrested Mr. Sanchez -Roman well before he ever reached the unforgiving concrete that he ultimately landed on.
Typically these fatal falls result in a screaming tabloid headline, cries for increased vigilance when it comes to worker safety and, at best, a civil suit brought by the deceased’s family. Occasionally there will be a brief focus on whether criminal charges will be brought and that fervor dies down shortly after the headline fades from memory. The deceased is forgotten by all but those love and care about them. Instead, here, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged that a “hard-working man died tragically and unnecessarily because proper safety measures were not taken to protect his life.” Thompson, continued, illuminating the risks associated with the ongoing construction boom in our city, particularly in the popular Borough of Brooklyn by saying “as buildings go up all over Brooklyn, we owe it to every construction worker to make sure that they don’t lose their lives due to shortcuts on safety.”, Well said.
An indictment is merely an accusatory instrument which alleges there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with a crime. The threshold of proof required is far less for an indictment than what is needed to convict someone of a crime. The Construction Accident Lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy, many of whom are former accomplished prosecutors, will be monitoring this case closely.
The implications of this case are interesting.
- Will this change the way worker safety is perceived by property owners, general contractors and developers?
- Will other prosecutors throughout the country be more inclined to bring criminal charges?
- Will be number of serious and/or fatal construction accidents be reduced as a result of law enforcement involvement?
- How will jurors react when faced with decision to convict or acquit an employer charged with an employee’s death?
These are all compelling questions that we will be curious to see how they shake out. Sometimes law enforcement has the ability to impact behavior far more so than the implementation of laws, rules and regulations. Kudos to DA Thompson for his offices vigilance.
If you or a loved one is interested in speaking to an accomplished and compassionate trial attorney you may contact the lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy for a free consultation by dialing 212-736-5300.