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Construction elevator collapse kills two workers

This blog recently commented on the death of a Connecticut construction worker who fell through a stairway opening and died when she hit the concrete slab 10 feet below. Accidental falls are one of the leading causes of construction workers' accidents. Another example of a fatal fall occurred at a high-rise renovation project in Naples, Florida.

Two men were installing an exterior temporary construction elevator to be used by workers in renovating the tower. They were about 70 feet off the ground when the elevator structure crashed to the ground. The two men were pronounced dead at the site. Regulations enacted by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration require that all exterior construction lifts be anchored to the building at intervals not exceeding 25 feet. Initial reports of the accident appear to state that the one or more fasteners that secured the tower to the building broke loose and caused the tower to fall. No explanation has been offered about why the fasteners may have broken, nor has anyone offered any other explanation for the accident.

Liability for the workers' deaths is not yet clear. More likely than not, their families are entitled to receive workers' compensation death benefits from their employer, but the identity of the employer is not clear. The two workers may have been working for a subcontractor that specializes in installing construction lifts and not the general contractor or the building owner. They may therefore have third party claims against these two parties. Another factor that must be explored is the identity of the owner of the elevator. If the elevator were owned by another party and leased for this project, the owner or manufacturer of the elevator may bear partial liability.

Sorting out the legal relationships of the parties involved in a workplace accident is a critical aspect of determining whether the worker or, as here, the worker's survivors, have a third-party claim against a non-employer. Third-party damages are not subject to the limits imposed on workers' compensation claims, and a successful third-party claim can significantly increase the amount of money an injured worker can recover.

Source: ABC Action News, "Two dead after falling 70 feet in elevator lift collapse in Naples," Amanda N. Marino, May 9, 2018

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