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Homeowners responsible in worker's death at renovation project?

Updated 4:54 pm, Saturday, March 2, 2013
  • People react to the fatal construction accident on Macpherson Drive in Greenwich on Nov. 1, 2010. A hearing tentatively scheduled for March will likely determine if a Greenwich couple has any responsibility in the death of an immigrant working on the renovation project at their property. Photo: File Photo, ST / Greenwich Time File Photo
    People react to the fatal construction accident on Macpherson Drive in Greenwich on Nov. 1, 2010. A hearing tentatively scheduled for March will likely determine if a Greenwich couple has any responsibility in the death of an immigrant working on the renovation project at their property. Photo: File Photo, ST

 

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A hearing tentatively scheduled for this month will likely determine whether a Greenwich couple has any responsibility in the death of an immigrant working on a renovation project at their property in November 2010.

Erick Fernando Chinchilla, 27, of Victory Street, Stamford, was power-washing the foundation of the $1.14 million project at the Macpherson Drive home of Robert and Maya Tichio when he was killed by a porch foundation that broke away from the house and collapsed the trench he was standing in, burying him.

Dozens of emergency responders rushed to the scene to try to lift the slab off of Chinchilla, but he was pronounced dead before emergency officials could get him out of the ground.

The lawsuit, filed by Thomas Yuditski and Yocaira Richiez, co-administrators of Chinchilla's estate, alleges negligence and recklessness against Dibico Construction and Murphy Bros. Landscaping LLC, both of Greenwich, as well as negligence against the Tichios.

Victor Ferrante and Glenn Formica, attorneys representing Chinchilla's estate in the wrongful death suit, said the case is tentatively scheduled for a summary judgment hearing regarding the Tichios' liability March 11 in state Superior Court in Bridgeport.

"It's a sad situation for everyone involved," Ferrante said.

Formica noted that the claim against the Tichios is a legal claim of negligence, not intentional conduct.

The lawsuit states Chinchilla was not provided a helmet or escape ladder, nor shoring to the inside wall of the trench he was standing in.

He died of head injuries.

Messages left with attorneys for Dibico Construction, Murphy Bros. Landscaping, and the Tichios were not returned.

The suit alleges other acts of negligence against the construction and landscaping companies -- including a failure to provide a competent person to inspect excavations and a failure to maintain the conditions of the trench -- and against the Tichios for failing to provide proper documents outlining the entire scope of the work to town officials.

Citing the fear and distress Chinchilla suffered, as well as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, the suit is claiming "just, proper and reasonable monetary damages."

A fire official who was at the scene told Greenwich Time in 2010 that the accident could have easily been prevented if there was proper shoring. Firefighters had to install wooden planks to hold the remaining trench walls upright to reach Chinchilla's body.

The suit alleges that federal work safety codes and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards were violated in the accident.

In fact, a Stamford construction company was fined $8,700 six months after Chinchilla was killed.

The company, Sosa Construction, was initially fined $17,000 for violating five safety standards, but the fine was cut in half after the company met with officials from OSHA and came to a settlement agreement.

"We reduced the penalty by 50 percent to $8,700 and put them on a payment plan," Robert Kowalski, area director of OSHA's Bridgeport office, said at the time. "For a lot of smaller employers it was a tough winter so we try to work with them."

The company -- which is not named as a defendant in a complaint in the suit dated Aug. 15, 2012 -- was cited for failing to have its employees wear head protection while in trenches.

The remaining citations were for failing to secure the excavation project properly.

david.hennessey@scni.com; 203-625-4428