Construction Death May Set New Standard for Liability on Construction Sites

June 10, 2016



April 6, 2015, Carlos Moncayo, 22, was working for subcontractor Sky Materials on a project at 9-19th Ninth Avenue in New York City, generalled by Harco Construction, owned by Kenneth Hart.

Sky Materials foreman Wilmer Cueva and site superintendent Alfonso Prestia sent Moncayo into a 13-foot trench with no safety shoring. Just minutes after , the trench began to collapse, burying Moncayo up to his neck and killing him instantly as his body was crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt.

An inspection company at the site had repeatedly warned the contractors about safety hazards but their warnings fell on deaf ears.  A safety inspector again warned the supervisors on April 6, 2015 about the unfortified trench. Two hours after that warning, Prestia ordered Moncayo and three other workers out of the trench. Unfortunately, Prestia gave the order in English and the men in the trench spoke Spanish. Twenty minutes later, Cueva repeated the get out order in Spanish, just as the trench was caving in.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Moncayo was an undocumented worker who came to the United States after graduating from high school and lived with his sister and her children. City Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters said Moncayo had taken a $500 OSHA-required course to learn how to build scaffolding.

“Construction companies are responsible for the safety of the individuals that work on their projects, regardless of union or immigration status,” Vance added. “The safety of our city begins with the safety of those who lay the foundation.”

"The irony here is too great to ignore," Peters said. "An immigrant to this country scrapes together $500 to make sure he complies with the laws . . . A company that can afford to do things right decides to cut corners, evade the law and gets that immigrant killed."

 “We are happy that justice was done for the family, and we are very confident that contractors will take heed on what not to do,” said Omar Henriquez of Wantagh, an organizer with the National Day Labor Organizing Network. The group says this may be the first time a general contractor has been found criminally responsible.

State Supreme Court Judge Kirke Bartley also found the company guilty on charges of criminally negligent homicide and guilty on three of four counts of reckless endangerment.

Source: Newsday