Berkeley Redevelopers, a New Jersey construction company, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the estate of Raymond Crosby, an equipment mechanic, crushed to death during the demolition of a former Woolworth store. The construction company failed to obtain a building evaluation by a demolition engineer to properly tear down the building the suit alleged.
The construction death resulted when Crosby, an employee of Edgewood Properties, was cutting notches into a steel support beam, at the Beachwood Shopping Center in Berkeley Township, when the roof fell on top of him. Crosby had no prior experience with demolitions. He was sent to the site to repair a piece of equipment to be used in the demolition of the old Woolworth building.
The collapse caused blunt trauma to Crosby’s head, fractured ribs and injuries to his thorax. Experts for the plaintiff opined that he likely knew three or four seconds prior to the collapse, that the roof was about to fall and he likely tried to escape but was stopped by a metal joist that struck him on the left side of his face. The experts testified that it likely took another seven to 10 seconds of pain and suffering before he succumbed to his injuries.
Defense experts countered the plaintiff’s testimony, arguing that Crosby died instantly.
Berkeley Redevelopers was created specifically for the Beachwood Project and was designated by Berkeley Township as redeveloper of the site. The Township also hired E.P. Equipment to do the demolition of the site. According to James Maggs, of Maggs & McDermott of Wall, NJ, who represented the estate, those companies, as well as Edgewood Properties, are under common ownership.
The suit claimed that Berkeley Redevelopers and E.P. Equipment failed to retain a demolition engineer to conduct a evaluation of the building for stability. Instead of demolishing the building from the outside with the proper equipment, they brought in a worker with no prior demolition experience or training to demolish the building from the inside. Maggs said that Kylem Spence, the demolition foreman and Frank Sellinger, superintendent for the project, initiated the plan.
After investigating the incident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the companies with numerous violations.
Construction Deaths on the Rise
In 2016 the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that construction deaths rose 5% in 2016.
The latest BLS report on fatal occupational injuries and incidents released on December 19, 2016, showed that private-sector construction deaths increased from 937 in 2015 to 991.
“Our concern for some time now has been that, as the industry continues to expand in an environment where there are so few qualified workers available, many firms are having to hire individuals with less experience than (the firms) would prefer,’ said Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America to Engineering News Report. “These new and relatively inexperienced workers are more likely to put themselves in harms way, especially within the first 90 days on a jobsite.”
With the devitalizing of five workplace safety panels and the streamlining of OSHA by the Trump administration, many independent labor experts fear that the number of construction and other workplace fatalities may continue to climb.
Workplace Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one were injured or became ill on the job or you lost someone due to a workplace accident or hazardous workplace conditions, contact a workplace injury lawyer at Vititoe Law Group today for a free evaluation of your case. You may be entitled to a significant cash award. Do not wait as the time to file your case can run out quickly. Call 818-991-8900 or contact us online.