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Tragic accident leads to criminal charges for construction site owner

In a previous post on this blog, we noted that workers’ compensation is generally the exclusive remedy available to workers injured on the job, though there are limited circumstances where a worker may be able to sue an employer for civil damages. Such possibilities include situations where the employer is found to have committed an intentional tort against the worker, as well as when the employer failed to obtain workers compensation insurance.

At least one of these circumstances was present in the death of a construction worker last year on a site in Coney Island. The worker was apparently pouring and smoothing out concrete immediately before he fell from the sixth story of the building. The owner of the construction company that employed the deceased worker has since been charged with manslaughter and other charges in connection with the death. 

According to sources, the charge was based on the owner’s failure to comply with safety regulations on the work site. Under New York’s building code, workers are required to wear harnesses and elevated work sites are supposed to have protective fences to prevent falls. Previously, the owner had received notice of violations regarding the protective fence requirement, but the fencing that was installed was three feet from the edge, leaving a large space in which workers could lose their balance and fall. Nor were harnesses provided.

To make matters worse, the owner failed to obtain workers’ compensation insurance and even submitted a falsified certificate of coverage to the state.

Interestingly, the worker who died in the accident was an undocumented man who was sending money to his family in Mexico. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the case and some of the other issues it raises in terms of workers compensation.