The widow of one of two workers who died in a 2016 explosion at a New York asphalt company has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her husband’s employer. At the time of the accident, the workers were using a blow torch, which ignited vapors coming from liquid asphalt in the holding-tank they were heating.
The Glenville, NY based Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions was cited for two safety violations that may have contributed to the tragic incident. As a result, Mohawk had to pay more than $17,000 in fines to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Now Karen Nichols, the wife of Joseph Nichols—the 56-year-old worker who was killed on the job—is suing the asphalt company, alleging negligence.
According to the lawsuit, Nichols was told to use a blow torch to loosen a clog in the line of a holding tank. A work crew had added a mixture of asphalt and kerosene into the holding tank, but it had thickened and become clogged. Nichols was instructed to heat the clogged area in an effort to soften the mixture so that it could flow freely through the line.
The lawsuit alleges that Joseph Nichols was wearing flammable clothing at the time of the explosion, and that a broken fire extinguisher prevented his co-workers from quickly extinguishing the flames. Due to severe burns covering most of his body, and other related medical complications, Nichols died two days after the accident. Failure to provide appropriate protective gear was one of the violations Mohawk was cited for by OSHA. A MA wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.
Wrongful Death or Workers’ Compensation?
Although the wrongful death lawsuit against Mohawk Asphalt Emulsions does not specify an exact dollar amount in damages, a lawyer working with Nichols’ widow says it “could be a substantial amount.” This case brings up an important question—when a worker dies as a result of an on-the-job accident, doesn’t workers’ compensation handle the claims of a surviving spouse? If the accident was the victim’s fault, workers’ compensation may indeed be the more appropriate solution. However, when another’s negligence was involved, the surviving spouse may be entitled to a far larger sum by filing a wrongful death claim against the negligent party or parties.
Was Negligence a Factor?
In order to prove that negligence caused another’s death, and that a surviving family member is entitled to damages, the following factors must have existed:
- A person died;
- due to the negligence of another; and
- surviving family members have suffered damages as a result of the person’s death.
The fact that Mohawk had to settle with OSHA for safety violations will likely factor heavily into Nichols’ case. If you have lost a loved one to the negligence of another, a Boston wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to obtain compensation. Continue reading