Sunday, September 13, 2015

Death and Newly Renovated Kyle Field - UPDATED - Jury Award of $53M

UPDATE 02/11/2016: A Houston Chronicle story reports a Harris County civil district court jury awarded $53 million in total damages yesterday against the general contractor on the Kyle Field renovations project, Manhattan-Vaughn and a subcontractor, Lindamood Demolition. Money quote in the story from the Garcia family lawyer, Jason Gibson:
'From the very beginning, they (the defendants) were trying to pin this on the operator - the person who died,' Gibson said. 'They never accepted any responsibility.'
Expect both of the tagged defendant's to appeal hoping to be bailed out of this large plaintiff's verdict.

ORIGINAL POST: The newly renovated Kyle Field was christened last night. More than 100,000 people stood, watched and yelled as Texas A&M steamrolled an overmatched Ball State University team. All is well with with Aggies football - at least as of this week. I watched the football game on ESPNU and the panoramas provided by the network from inside Kyle Field were impressive indeed.

Amongst the hoopla and backslapping, I remembered Angel Garcia. Angel was killed December 3, 2013 while working on the early stages of the project. Allen Reed of The Bryan College Station Eagle wrote about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) investigative findings in May 2014. Reed's story tells about the needless tragedy in clinical, concise detail:
The OSHA investigation states that Garcia was operating the skid-steer loader to support a 3,340-pound concrete stub while a Texas Cutting & Coring employee used a circular saw to cut the stub from its support column. The stub overloaded the skid-steer and tipped it and its driver over a ramp wall. Garcia was ejected from the machine after it tumbled over the edge and fell four stories. He was taken to St. Joseph hospital in Bryan, where he died from his injuries.
Angel was working for a sub-contractor named Lindamood Demolition when he died. Here is what Reed wrote concerning the blameworthiness OSHA placed at the feet of both Lindamood and Texas Cutting and Coring:
OSHA has charged Irving-based Lindamood Demolition Inc. and Round Rock-based Texas Cutting & Coring with willful violations -- ones committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.  
I cannot help but suspect, even without substantiation, that the rush to finish with the Kyle Field renovations before the 2015 college football season was felt downstream by the sub-contractors providing labor and materials to the project.

Garcia's family filed a lawsuit months before the OSHA finding were made public. The case is still pending in Harris County state district court and is set for trial in November, 2015. The documents in the case are public record. With a relatively simple sign up, you can read the filings in the case yourself through the Harris County District Clerk's office website. The filed documents take awhile to sort through, but they paint a disturbing picture on several levels.

Suffice to say that our worker's compensation system is screwed up. Angel's death and revelations published this week by the Texas Tribune of the "pay to play" arrangement between the Travis County District Attorney's office and the state's largest workers' compensation insurer just illustrate the depth of how twisted the system has become.

But this post is not about Texas Workers' Compensation. It is about Angel. His name is more appropriate now.

Kyle Field is home of the 12th Man. The story of the 12th Man is familiar to all Aggies. The story is meant to illustrate the camaraderie and solidarity of Aggies. It is the bond each Aggie has to another. Here is hoping there is room in that celebration for Angel Garcia and the family he left behind.

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