Raymond Willis Brown, 32, died yesterday when he tragically fell to his death at the Hyde Resort and Residences construction site in Hollywood, Florida. Brown was a talented mural painter working on a phenomenal, one of a kind, project that is seen by every driver and pedestrian traveling northbound on A-1-A from Hallandale Beach.
However, Raymond Brown wasn’t the first to die in South Florida scaffolding accident in the past week.
On the contrary – there have been TWO deaths in TWO weeks at TWO South Florida construction sites. 2 – 2 – 2. While it is not uncommon for construction workers to get killed or seriously injured doing their work, a question arises when the same South Florida construction company has two fatalities because of two scaffolding failures in the same two week period.
That company is John Moriarty & Associates, Inc.
Why does the same construction company have two major scaffolding accidents in such a short period of time? Is there a case to be made here or is this a coincidence? Is there an underlying safety issue or is this a case of bad timing?
What is Going on With the Scaffolding?
As a personal injury lawyer, my job is to ask the tough questions when people get hurt. When I hear of two major accidents involving the same company in a short period of time, my dog ears perk up. When lightening strikes twice in the same place, you need to ask why…
Last Tuesday, the first scaffolding failure happened at John Moriarty’s Echo Condominiums site in Miami. When the scaffolding failed, it sent debris flying all over Brickell Avenue, causing one man to suffer a heart attack as he fled for cover.
The second incident happened yesterday when three men fell from a scaffolding collapse (one to his death) at the Hyde Resort and Residences in Hollywood, Florida. The men were painting a massive mural designed by artist Douglas Hoekzema, 36, who was one of the men who fell (he lived). The second man who lived has been identified as Jonathan Olsen, 36, of Miami.
John Moriarty & Associates is the contractor at both sites.
This begs an important question: Are these scaffolding deaths merely freak accidents or is John Moriarty & Associates the common denominator? Was Raymond Brown’s death preventable? What about the victim in Miami?
Is there an overriding safety problem here? Is there a common cause that can be traced back to both scaffolding failures? Is it equipment? Is it management? Is it due to lax safety practices?
Or is this just a case of bad luck and coincidence?
Does John Moriarty & Associates have a scaffolding problem? If I was a construction worker at one of their sites or the family of the people involved in these two fatalities – you bet I would want to know!
The answer to this question is as important as any other industrial site accident: Are workers safe?
Anytime a worker is killed at a construction site, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) conducts a thorough investigation afterwards. While it takes months to complete, OSHA’s investigation exists to prevent future deaths by figuring out what went wrong with the current case.
Here are some tough questions that need to be answered:
- Did the construction site adhere to required safety standards?
- Was the scaffolding properly assembled?
- Was the scaffolding properly inspected?
- Was the scaffolding properly maintained?
- Was the scaffolding defective or damaged?
- Did the workers involved follow safety standards?
- Were the workers properly trained?
- Were the workers properly supervised?
- Was the construction company on notice about any problems or safety issues?
- How many scaffolding failures happened in the past, but caused no injury or went unreported?
- Is there an underlying cause common to both accidents?
My role on Courthouse Insider is to offer the legal take on cases like these. I am a personal injury lawyer and that means asking questions about what caused the accidents at issue in this case.
From a legal perspective, you need to first figure out what happened in order to figure out who to hold responsible. My point in this article is that lightening does not strike twice and coincidence almost never happens.
Instead, the common threads in this case – scaffolding failure, timing of incidents, common construction company – all raise red flags. These facts are screaming at us to investigate further. It is rare if not nearly impossible for so many common threads to exist in a freak accident.
Third Party Responsibility
Did John Moriarty & Associates delegate its scaffolding operations to a third party contractor? In the construction business, companies like John Moriarty and Associates act as project managers who hire speciality companies, like electricians, plumbers, painters, concrete pourers, and yes, scaffolding companies.
I wonder if there is a third party scaffolding company involved and if there is, were they the same company at both construction sites where the scaffolding failed? While John Moriarty may be responsible for hiring them and for allowing an unsafe operation to take place at their construction site, a third party contractor may also be responsible for the actual negligence that led to these accidents.
Another likely possibility is joint responsibility or comparative negligence. Have you ever watched the Discovery Channel shows that explain plane crashes, train accidents, and industrial disasters? A lot of times horrible outcomes are traced back to multiple causes as opposed to just one. Sometimes there is a domino effect caused by a series of mistakes by more than just one party that creates a perfect storm of trouble.
I mention the domino effect because these scaffolding deaths may present a case where multiple parties did multiple things wrong or failed to do multiple things right, thereby causing the ultimate outcome together.
Should this be the case, a jury may be tasked with figuring out what percentage each party is responsible for causing the accidents. This is important, because any lawsuit for damages will be apportioned accordingly.
Having studied “causation” in law and the courts my entire professional career, I strongly suspect there is something going on with the scaffolding operations at John Moriarty & Associates. Last week a man was killed when failed scaffolding sent debris flying all over Brickell Avenue in Miami. The man died from a heart attack.
This week, the same exact company had another scaffolding incident which lead to the falling death of Raymond Willis Brown and the dangling nightmare experienced by two others, including the artist who designed the mural.
At the conclusion of OSHA’s investigation, I bet the families of the people who were killed will learn that these were no freak accidents. Having been a trial lawyer for as long as I have, I don’t believe in coincidence or freak accidents. They are so rare and occur so infrequently, that they are virtually impossible – especially in a complicated symphony of moving parts like a construction site.
In all likelihood, Raymond Brown was killed because something preventable went wrong – and that is unacceptable.
Hopefully the families of those effected will find solace and hold accountable those who did wrong or failed to do right. This way, in using accountability as a sword, hopefully future accidents and deaths can be prevented. Raymond Willis Brown’s death is a tragedy and it should not go unanswered for.
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