Construction News

Wed April 01 2020

Settlement reached over Philadelphia site death

10 Jan A US$10.5m (£8m) settlement has been reached over the death of a labourer during a pier rehabilitation project in Philadelphia, USA.

 The accident occured during refurbishment works at the Port of Philadelphia's Pier 78
The accident occured during refurbishment works at the Port of Philadelphia's Pier 78

Personal injury law firm Fritz & Bianculli Partner has secured the settlement for the death of John ‘Jay’ Johnson, drowned in January 2016 during rehabilitation of Pier 78 at the Port of Philadelphia on the Delaware River.

attorneys, Brian Fritz and Kevin Durkan, of the law firm Fritz & Bianculli, LLC. 

Johnson died on the night of 14th January 2016, when he fell through a man-made cut-out while working as a labourer on the Pier 78 rehabilitation project, which had been awarded to defendant, Agate Construction Company, Inc.

“Jay was a good man,” said family attorney Brian Fritz. “He and every worker deserve a safe worksite. This accident could have and should have been prevented. The defendant has a history of allowing poor and unsafe working conditions that have led to other workers being put in harms’ way.” Fritz & Bianculli Partner said that on 10th April 2012 pile driver Patrick Montgomery lost most of his left hand on an Agate project. Less than one year later, on 17th February 2013 diver Michael McQuade,was killed during another Agate project.  

“We have to put an end to government contracts being blindly handed out to the lowest bidder,” said Fritz. “The wellbeing of the workforce has to be the top priority. Those awarding contracts should investigate these companies better to ensure the safety of all involved.”

Johnson was working on the newly formed 2pm to midnight shift, which was created to accelerate the progress of work. It was his fourth day on the job.

Durkan said: “Agate was required to cover the holes cut in the pier deck and never did so. In fact, Agate regularly completed pre-accident safety reports that contained false and misleading information about the conditions of the pier.”

He said that court documents show that the lighting was poor at best and the holes cut into Pier 78 were not properly covered or protected for worker safety. Johnson was working alone near one of the holes that led directly to the Delaware River. At approximately 7:30pm on the night of the incident, the other crew members realised that no one had seen Johnson for about an hour. The crew members’ calls to his cell phone went unanswered and their alarm turned to panic when they spotted Jay’s hardhat floating in the Delaware River. After the co-workers couldn’t find Johnson in the water, they called 911 and at approximately 9:20pm, Philadelphia Police Department divers found Johnson’s body.

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