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Bifurcated trials for defendants in construction worker death

There is no doubt that construction workers in New York City are exposed to many daily hazards as they go about their job duties. But while some risks are inherent with their occupations, others are greatly exacerbated by companies and bosses that flout safety regulations to control costs.

Such is likely to have been the case with the death last year of one 22-year-old construction worker who died when an unreinforced trench he was digging collapsed onto him on 9th Avenue in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.

According to documents filed in Manhattan Supreme Court in the criminal case against them, both the job site supervisor and the construction company accuse each other for causing the conditions that led to the young man's death.

The 55-year-old site supervisor blames the man's death on the company, alleging that he wasn't allowed to terminate a foreman who turned a blind eye to the unsafe conditions on the premises. The company, however, is challenging the supervisor's claim, along with his credibility, in its defense.

As such, both defendants filed a joint motion to separate the two cases and try the defendants separately. The motion alleges that the defenses are "antagonistic and irreconcilable." Over the objections of prosecutors, the judge granted their joint motion earlier this month. The first trial will be held next month for the Harco defendant.

The two companies, Sky Materials Corp. and Harco, and the foreman and supervisor are facing charges of reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter for last April's fatal construction site accident.

An inspector reportedly noted that a pit over a dozen feet deep lacked the proper reinforcement on the site and told both the foreman and supervisor to prevent workers from entering the pit until it was shored up. Yet the two declined to shut down the job site until the trench collapsed, killing the worker.

Those injured at work on construction sites, and survivors of those who lose their lives, have the right to pursue compensation for their losses through New York's civil court system.

Source: New York Post, "Construction company, supervisor blame each other for fatal accident," Rebecca Rosenberg, April 06, 2016

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