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The owner of a construction company can be charged with second-degree manslaughter in connection with a workplace fatality, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled.
As a result of the Feb. 4 decision in Washington v. Numrich, Phillip Numrich, owner of now-closed Alki Construction Co., may face felony charges in the death of a 36-year-old employee who was buried under 6,000 pounds of mud and sand after the dirt walls of a 7-foot-deep trench he was working in collapsed, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries said Tuesday in releasing details of the Supreme Court ruling.
Though it is rare for an employer to be charged with a felony in connection with an employee’s death, “there are times when a monetary penalty isn’t enough,” Joel Sacks, the director of the department, said in a statement.
The department, which investigated the incident, found that workers only shored up one side of the trench, rather than all four, and that no ladder was used to help them exit the trench. Investigators also claimed that Mr. Numrich said his employees had the responsibility of knowing the dangers of digging in rain-soaked, unstable soil and determining what shore boards were needed, according to the department’s statement.
A worker who was injured in a trench collapse as a school construction site in LaPlace, Louisiana, can’t sue the engineering firm contracted with the school district, a Louisiana appeals court ruled Tuesday.