$15.8 Million Awarded in Trench Collapse that Kills Plumber

We represented the estate and widow of a mechanical plumber who was working in a steep, narrow trench, replacing a water line running from a large commercial office building to the main at the street.

The plumber had hired excavators to dig the trench, and both he and the excavators were aware of the OSHA regulations, which required the use of a heavy steel or aluminum box or sleeve to protect people working in the trench.

The property management company in charge of the building, which hired the plumber, was also aware that the trench was so steep and narrow that it required special precautions, but failed to require that a trench box or sleeve be put in place.

One night two weeks before Christmas, while the plumber was working on the water line replacement, the trench caved and buried him alive. He survived an agonizing 20 minutes of being crushed and asphyxiated. He left behind a widow and their three children.

We prosecuted a case against the property management company based on a rarely-used principle of law requiring someone who employs a contractor to take reasonable steps to make sure that special precautions are in place where there is a peculiar unreasonable risk of physical harm. At trial, we established claims on behalf of both the plumber's estate and his widow.

The jury returned a verdict of $15.8 million.

Read an article in the Connecticut Law Tribune about this case.