An incorrectly performed tree-cutting procedure led to the death of a Massachusetts man last year, and now his family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the developer was negligent in assigning a tree-cutting task to an excavator who was contracted to perform sewer work rather than a trained arborist.
According to the complaint, a developer had built a single family home in the Amherst area and chose not to remove tall trees near the site before construction. However, after building the house, he chose to cut down the trees to avoid any potential damage to the home. Rather than hiring an arborist for the job, he instructed the owner of an excavating business, who happened to be on-site to excavate and install a sewer system, to fell the tree. The victim, Mr. Thomas Moszynski, an employee of the excavating company, was assisting his boss. The two men positioned the bucket of the excavator to deflect the tree, as they were concerned about the tree hitting the house. The tree fell, struck the bucket, then hit Mr. Moszynski in the head, who died before reaching the hospital.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the victim’s boss $3,978 for a violation of federal safety laws in not following proper procedures in removing the tree.
Attorneys representing the victim’s family stated that the developer should have known that logging “is extremely dangerous and is associated with one of the highest fatality rates of any occupation in the United States.”
Logging is an incredibly dangerous profession. In 2017, there were 87.3 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in the logging profession, far higher than the national average. There were also 350 nonfatal injuries that occurred during this year. The most common cause for fatal accidents was contact with objects (including logs and falling branches) and equipment (including harvesters and chainsaws) as was the case with Mr. Moszynski. In addition to the risks posed by falling objects and dangerous machinery, logging often involves work done at significant heights, posing a risk of injuries from falling. Furthermore, the work is often performed in remote locations, where workers are far from medical attention.
Injuries on the job may be covered by workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage benefits to an employee injured on the job. Workers’ compensation laws developed over time as a way to protect both employees and limit lawsuits against employers. Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, and in exchange, the employee generally cannot sue the employer for their injury.
If an employee is injured on the job, workers’ compensation is supposed to begin coverage, covering the costs of medical treatment, while also giving the employee a paycheck. The benefits usually last until the employee is able to work again. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation can get complicated if the employer or the insurance company dispute a claim, or deny a worker compensation for their injuries. The employee may have to hire an attorney to fight for their right to workers’ compensation.