It was announced yesterday that the two contractors involved in a deadly construction accident last year have reached a settlement with the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) regarding the death of Jeramie Gruber, a 35-year old roofer working on the U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. Gruber was employed by Berwald Roofing of St. Paul, a subcontractor for Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction.
On August 26, 2015, Gruber slid from the stadium's roof, falling 50 feet to his death because there was no guardrail in place on the edge of the roof.
During the same accident, another worker suffered a cut on his leg requiring 48 stitches and staples and was treated and released from the hospital.
Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MNOSHA) originally fined the two companies last June a total of almost $175,000. Berwald was fined $70,000 for the “willful” violation related to working in areas with “unprotected sides and edges,” and $69,100 for two serious violations related to OSHA standards for inspections and safety programs. Mortenson was fined $34,300 for a “serious” violation of OSHA standards for inspections.
Both companies appealed the OSHA citations. As reported by Finance-Commerce.com, employers don’t want to acknowledge an OSHA violation in part because it could be used against them in a lawsuit. Bob Huber, a partner with the Stinson Leonard Street law firm in Minneapolis, said under workers’ compensation rules, an injured worker or the estate of a deceased worker can’t sue the employer, but they can sue companies that didn’t directly employ the worker. If the deceased worker’s estate were to sue Mortenson in this case, the contractor could in turn sue Berwald to recover part of the damages. Huber said, "It's a very complicated situation.”
In the agreement finalized several months ago, Mortenson will pay $34,000 for one violation and Berwald will pay $113,200 for three safety violations.