Suit: Company negligent for worker's death after fall from roof

David Yates Jan. 9, 2008, 9:24am

Richard Mithoff

A 29-year-old construction worker lost his life last year when he fell from a scaffold. Michael Spurlock's surviving family members have filed suit against his former employer, K & R Construction, and several of its owners/employees, claiming they negligently caused his death.

Spurlock's wife, Angela, and two children filed the suit in the Jefferson County District Court on Jan. 8.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, on April 27, 2007, Spurlock was working at a construction site in Beaumont "when he fell off a scaffold or roof, sustaining serious injuries, which ultimately caused his death."

The suit does not give any more specifics on Spurlock's fall, however a report in the Beaumont Enterprise said Spurlock was a native of Warren and fell 50 feet from the roof of American Valve & Hydrant at 3525 Hollywood St. in Beaumont.

"After the incident, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), conducted an investigation and issued a Citation with four violations against Defendant K & R Construction, and fined Defendant K & R Construction $8,400," the suit said.

The suit lists the following acts of gross negligence allegedly committed by K & R Construction:

  • Failing to provide a safe place in which to work, free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm;

  • In permitting or allowing as a common business practice for their employees to climb on the edge of the basket;

  • In failing to have each employee who performs work while on a scaffold trained by a person qualified in the subject matter to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used, the proper use of the scaffold, and the proper handling of materials on the scaffold;

  • In permitting or allowing as a common business practice for their employees who engaged in steel erection activity on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level to not be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems;

  • In failing to properly and adequately train their employees in the recognition and identification of fall hazards in the work area;

  • And in failing to adhere to safe and industry common work practices, as a reasonable and prudent construction business would have, under the circumstances complied with.

    The suit says Spurlock would have been expected to live for another 47.1 years. His family is suing for his lost wages and loss of consortium, as well as punitive and mental anguish damages.

    "Plaintiffs further sue…to recover punitive and exemplary damages against the Defendants K & R Construction, for gross negligence at common law," the suit said. "Such Defendants' acts and omissions constitute a reckless disregard for the rights of others and were the result of conscious indifference to the rights, welfare, and safety of other persons, including Michael Spurlock."

    The Spurlock family is represented by Richard Mithoff of the Mithoff Law Firm.

    According to the firm's Web site, Mithoff has more than 25 years of experience handling precedent-setting cases in personal injury and commercial litigation, and was one of the lead attorneys in the landmark tobacco case, which provided in excess of $2.2 billion for the 254 counties Texas. He also obtained more than 100 multi-million-dollar verdicts or settlements and was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top 10 trial lawyers in the country.

    Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

    Case No. B180-994

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    U.S. Department of Labor
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    Washington, DC 20210

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