FRITZ & BIANCULLI PARTNER SECURES $10.5 MILLION SETTLEMENT FOR THE DEATH OF A PHILADELPHIA UNION LABORER

John Johnson drowned in January 2016 during rehabilitation of Pier 78 on the Delaware River. 

 

Philadelphia, PA – A $10.5 million settlement has been reached in the wrongful death suit of Union 57 Laborer John “Jay” Johnson, by attorneys, Brian Fritz and Kevin Durkan, of the law firm Fritz & Bianculli, LLC.  

 

Johnson died on the night of January 14, 2016, when he tragically fell through a man-made cutout while working as a Union 57 Laborer on the Pier 78 Rehabilitation Project in Philadelphia that was awarded to defendant, Agate Construction Company, Inc. 

 

“Jay was a good man,” said family attorney Brian Fritz. “He and every worker deserve a safe worksite. This accident could have and should have been prevented. The defendant has a history of allowing poor and unsafe working conditions that have led to other workers being put in harms’ way.”

 

On April 10, 2012, pile driver, Patrick Montgomery, lost most of his left hand on an Agate project. Less than one year later, on February 17, 2013, diver, Michael McQuade, was killed during another Agate project. Disturbingly, the same inexcusable conduct that earlier cost Mr. Montgomery his hand and Mr. McQuade his life repeated itself on the Pier 78 Project. 

 

“We have to put an end to government contracts being blindly handed out to the lowest bidder,” said Fritz. “The wellbeing of the workforce has to be the top priority. Those awarding contracts should investigate these companies better to ensure the safety of all involved.”

 

Working on the newly formed 2 p.m. to midnight shift, it was Johnson’s fourth day on the job. A father and grandfather, the Wilmington, Delaware native accepted the shift, which was created to accelerate the progress of work, but the job site was not properly maintained, especially for night work, as the defendant is alleged to have cut corners to avoid fines and fees for missing deadlines.

 

Durkan added, “Agate was required to cover the holes cut in the pier deck and never did so. In fact, Agate regularly completed pre-accident safety reports that contained false and misleading information about the conditions of the pier.” 

 

Court documents show that the lighting was poor at best and the holes cut into Pier 78 were not properly covered or protected for worker safety. Johnson was working alone near one of the holes that led directly to the Delaware River. At approximately 7:30 p.m. on the night of the incident, the other crew members realized that no one had seen Johnson for about an hour. The crew members’ calls to his cell phone went unanswered and their alarm turned to panic when they spotted Jay’s hardhat floating ominously in the Delaware River. After the co-workers couldn’t find Johnson in the water, they called 911 and at approximately 9:20 p.m., Philadelphia Police Department divers found Johnson’s body. 

 

The Plaintiff’s forensic pathologist, Wayne K. Ross, M.D., believes that Johnson consciously suffered the physical symptoms of hypothermia, as well as the doom his impending death, for at least 15 minutes before finally losing the physical strength to keep his face above the bitterly cold river water. With his face now in the river water, he suffered excruciating pain and fear for an additional three minutes. After losing the ability to hold his breath any longer, Jay involuntarily inhaled, and suffocated on, the dirty, icy cold river water. 

 

Jay’s widow, Kimberly Johnson, said, “We hope that no other families know the suffering we have gone through, or the suffering the other prior victims have gone through, too. Hopefully, contractors with a terrible safety record, like Agate, are no longer given government contracts because it will save workers’ lives. If that had been done before, Jay would still be here.”