Ironworker’s family sues Oregon firm after jobsite death

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Dive Brief:

  • The estate of deceased ironworker Samantha Deschenes has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Portland, Oregon-based Andersen Construction following Deschenes’ passing on a jobsite, according to the June 10 complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Oregon.
  • The complaint was brought forward by Deschenes’ mother, Carol Ruvolo. It alleges that Deschenes was working on the Benson Polytechnic High School Modernization project in Portland on May 30 when a forklift rolled on top of her. The machine pinned and crushed her, and she was rushed to the hospital for surgery on a ruptured aorta. Despite surgeons’ efforts, Deschenes suffered an unrecoverable lack of oxygen, and life support was removed on June 1st.
  • Ruvolo and Deschenes’ estate are seeking approximately $25.5 million in damages for violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act, state laws around employment safety, and for negligence that allegedly led to Deschenes’ death, per the complaint.

Dive Insight:

Deschenes, at the time of the accident, was a union ironworker employed by Tigard, Oregon-based REFA Erection, a subcontractor to Andersen Construction on the Benson project, according to the complaint. She was 33.

The complaint alleges that Andersen was negligent in its safety efforts and failed to protect its employees. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Andersen:

  • Failed to adopt and enforce policies and procedures to prevent struck-by incidents like the one that killed Deschenes. In 2022, 149 construction workers died following fatal contact with objects or equipment, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  • Failed to have adequate personnel on the Benson jobsite to properly monitor and supervise the work.
  • Failed to enforce its own policies regarding forklift and equipment operation.

“Every accident on a construction site is preventable, and that is particularly true with a general contractor like Andersen. This death never should have happened,” said Joe Piucci, an attorney at Piucci Law who is representing the plaintiffs.

Andersen Construction is one of the largest construction firms in Oregon, according to reporting from Portland’s Daily Journal of Commerce. Large projects performed by its Portland office include the original downtown Hilton Hotel, the Kaiser Westside Medical Center and the Cosmopolitan Tower, according to the firm’s website.

Andersen Construction declined to comment.

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