It is not uncommon for company owners to disregard the safety of their workers when they fall behind on a project. Unfortunately, many lives of workers have been lost as a result. A California construction company's owner and its project manager were recently convicted by a jury on manslaughter charges. This follows the 2012 death of a worker in an accident on the job at a building site in Milpitas.
According to court documents, the construction site was deemed unsafe by city inspectors three days before the worker's death. A stop work order was issued because excavations and retaining walls were not supported, and heavy rain falls had exacerbated the dangerous conditions. The defendants apparently failed to inform workers of the order to stop work, and construction activities continued. The Deputy District Attorney said the order was ignored because the project was behind schedule.
A father of three children lost his life when a trench at this dangerous work site collapsed. An OSHA investigation revealed that the contractor did not have the state permits required to dig below five feet. The worker who died was in a trench with unsupported sides at a depth of about 13 feet. The contract license of the construction company has since been suspended by the Contractors State License Board.
California workers who are injured -- and the families of those who are killed in workplace accidents -- are typically prohibited from filing claims against their employers. Instead, they must pursue compensation through workers' compensation benefit claims. However, in a case of an accident on the job caused by gross negligence of an employer, the employee -- or surviving family -- may be eligible to file a civil claim against the company. A criminal conviction, such as in this case, may benefit a civil personal injury or wrongful death claim that is filed in addition to a workers' compensation claim.
Source: Milpitas Ca. Patch, "Manslaughter Conviction in Death of Milpitas Construction Worker", Bea Karnes, May 20, 2015