Workers killed when trench at home renovation collapses, floods

Employer accused of flouting OSHA regs; $2.2 million settlement

The claimant was the spouse of one of two laborers killed when a trench in which they were working collapsed and flooded at a home renovation project in Boston’s South End in October 2016.The deceased was survived by his then-53-year-old spouse, three adult children, and three dependent grandchildren. The insurer initiated payment of weekly Section 31 death benefits.

The surviving spouse filed a claim for Section 28 double compensation based on the employer’s willful misconduct. She alleged that the employer willfully violated OSHA regulations by failing to implement cave-in protections required for excavation work, and that the employer had been cited by OSHA for doing so on multiple prior occasions.

The insurer was required to assume the employer’s Section 28 liability due to the employer’s insolvency following the incident. The insurer contested the causal relationship of the employer’s failure to safeguard the trench and the death of the employees, asserting that the precipitating event was not a trench collapse but rather the explosion of a 100-year-old water main pipe unrelated to the employer’s work.

The parties reached settlement terms after mediation prior to the Section 11 hearing.

The $2.2 million settlement is believed to be the largest “accepted liability” settlement ever approved at the Department of Industrial Accidents without any significant medical expenses involved in the Section 28 claim, according to the claimant’s counsel.

A third-party negligence claim against the general contractor of the construction project is pending.

Action: Workers’ compensation

Injuries alleged: Death

Case name: Withheld

Court/case no.: Department of Industrial Accidents/case no. withheld

Jury and/or judge: N/A (settled)

Amount: $2.2 million

Date: Nov. 1, 2018

Attorneys: Brendan G. Carney and Gerard B. Carney, of Carney Law Firm, Boston (for the claimant)