Two Workplace Fatalities Result in $168K OSHA Fine for Massachusetts Electrical Company

danger-keep-out-709062-m OSHA has completed its investigation into the April 2014 crane accident in Bourne, Massachusetts that took the lives of two electrical workers.  Two linemen, John Loughran, Jr. and Michael Boyd, both age 34, were tragically killed when the crane truck from which they were working tipped over, causing them to fall more than 150 feet to their death.  Both men were working for Massachusetts Bay Electrical Corp.

In late September, OSHA announced the findings of its investigation into the incident and the fines levied on Mass Bay Electric Corp.  OSHA, stating that the accident was entirely preventable, has fined the employer $168,000 for two willful violations of workplace safety standards.  OSHA found that Massachusetts Bay Electric Corp. did not refer to or use readily available and necessary information that would have allowed the work to be conducted safely, resulting in the loss of two lives.

Although OSHA places the blame for this tragic incident on the employer, there very well may be blame to be shared by another party for this accident, such as the construction project’s owner or the general contractor.  OSHA only has the authority to impose fines on an employer or an injured or deceased worker, and has no authority to find fault, blame or fine any third parties who may have also been responsible for causing this needless tragedy.

In applying the facts of this incident to Massachusetts workers’ compensation and negligence laws, there are many possible ways for the family members of the deceased to seek compensation for their loss and to hold the wrongdoers accountable in order to deter this kind of needless tragedy from ever happening in the future.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Surviving spouses and children who are financially dependent on the income of a worker killed on the job are entitled to 250 weeks of workers’ compensation death benefits.  The weekly benefit is two-thirds of the deceased workers’ average weekly wage at the time of their death.  After the 250 week period, the surviving spouse or child(ren) must prove that they are not fully “self-supporting” in order to continue to receive benefits.  Other benefits available include a funeral and burial expense (eight times the average weekly wage, presently $9,720) and possibly Section 28 benefits which would double all compensation payable to the family of the deceased worker if it can be proven that the willful misconduct of the employer caused the death.

Third Party Negligence Claim

Because Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits can be very limited, it is essential for any attorney handling these types of claims to properly investigate any and all possible third party negligence claims.  If a third party can be identified whose negligent conduct caused or contributed to the workplace fatality, the surviving family members may bring a civil case against the third party and seek compensation that typically far exceed the compensation that Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits can possibly provide.  Possible compensation includes medical, funeral and burial expenses, loss of future earnings provided by the deceased, any pain and suffering experienced by deceased before death, loss of consortium and companionship, and in cases where it can be proven that the defendant’s conduct rose to the level of gross negligence, punitive damages may be sought.

For a more detailed explanation of how all of these benefits are coordinated, you may read this article authored by Attorney Brendan Carney which was recently published in Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys’ newsletter.  This article explains what claims can be brought, when they should be filed, and what compensation is available.

Our attorneys at Carney Law Firm have the experience and skill necessary to handle complex workplace death claims.  In the past three years, our firm has been retained to represent the family members of three victims of workplace fatalities.  When choosing a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney, you should ask any possible attorneys you may hire about their past experience handling such claims.