Wrongful Death Construction Action Settled for $1 Million

On April 3, 2012, a Manhattan construction site became the scene of a fatal accident. Work to extend the No. 7 subway line halted when a 170-foot crane collapsed and showered pieces into the excavated pit below. The crane came down on 30-year-old Burlington resident Michael Simermeyer, who died of his injuries. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines construction as a high-hazard industry. Few other trades combine humans, heavy machinery and constant movement, often at heights or depths. Workers in the industry are aware of the dangers and individually do their best to stay safe. That said, the machinery, training and protective equipment provided by employers is sometimes not enough to protect workers’ lives. 

The accident that killed Mr. Simermeyer was investigated by OSHA. The report cited Yonkers Contracting and subcontractor J & E Industries, the employer of Mr. Simermeyer, with 10 violations and noted the following: 

  • Wire rigging on the crane was not properly inspected and subsequently broke, causing the boom to fall.
  • Employees were working inside the fall zone of the crane.
  • Employees were not properly trained.
  • Had safety measures been observed, the accident would not have occurred, and Mr. Simermeyer would not have been killed. 

Yonkers Contracting was fined $68,000, J & E Industries was fined $7,000. The parents of Mr. Simermeyer, who brought a wrongful death action against Yonkers Contracting, accepted a $1 million tax-free settlement for the loss of their son. By settling, Yonkers Contracting admitted to no wrongdoing. 

Fines might deter similar behavior in the future, and compensation may provide a small measure of comfort for surviving family members, but neither makes up for the failure to provide a safe workplace on that April morning in Manhattan. If you are injured in a crane or construction accident in New York, obtain reputable legal counsel.