The owner of a crane involved in a 2008 fatal construction accident was acquitted of all criminal charges last week after a bench trial in Manhattan. The judge in the case gave no explanation as to why he decided to clear the owner.
On May 30, 2008, a construction crane collapsed at 91st Street and First Avenue in New York City, killing two people. The crane accident has been blamed on two separate causes. The first is a poor-quality Chinese-made bearing in the turntable. The second is human error; reportedly, the operator picked up too heavy a load for the crane, causing the cable to snap and the crane to become imbalanced.
In the wake of the collapse, the owner of the company that operated the crane was charged with second-degree manslaughter, assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. The charges were based on the theory that the company endangered employees by purchasing a shoddy replacement bearing.
The victims of fatal and catastrophic construction accidents deserve justice. Unfortunately, justice can sometimes be hard to achieve in criminal cases. Criminal liability in construction accidents can be difficult to prove because of all of the different factors that are involved in a construction accident.
New York construction accident victims do have the opportunity to seek justice in civil court. Often, this can be a better option.
Civil lawsuits use a different standard of proof than criminal trials; it is possible for defendants to be held liable in civil court even if they were acquitted in criminal court or if criminal charges were never brought. Further, a civil suit can apportion responsibility amongst several defendants, ensuring that everyone who played a role in causing the accident is held responsible.