July 24, 1996 in City

City, State Sued Over Death Of Bridge Worker Daughters’ Wrongful Death Suit Alleges That Officials Ignored Safety Violations

By The Spokesman-Review

The daughters of a Spokane construction worker who fell to his death from the Maple Street Bridge have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and state, as well as his company.

The lawsuit accuses government officials of allowing the 1993 resurfacing project to continue despite an earlier near-fatal accident and ongoing safety violations.

It also accuses the contractor, David A. Mowat Co. of Kirkland, Wash., of having substandard safety practices.

On July 22, Joseph Galindo, 43, went to work on the south end of the bridge and stepped on an unsecured plank. He plunged through the deck, fell 76 feet and landed face down on a pile of rocks. He was wearing a safety harness, but his safety line was untethered.

Galindo’s accident came three months after another worker, Neal Berman, was injured in a similar fall from the bridge. After that incident, the state Department of Labor and Industries fined Mowat $810 for not making sure Berman was using proper safety equipment.

Galindo’s fatal fall brought more Labor and Industries fines - totaling $14,000 - for various safety violations.

“What makes this whole thing so unfortunate is that they had a similar accident earlier,” said J. Scott Miller, a Spokane attorney who represents Galindo’s 12-year-old daughter, Lisa.

“The (Labor and Industries) issued a warning,” Miller said. “They said someone’s going to get hurt or killed. And guess what?”

Miller and another lawyer, Thomas Roberts, filed the wrongful death lawsuit together because Roberts represents Galindo’s other daughter, Elizabeth. The two already filed a claim last summer against the state Department of Transportation and the city of Spokane, seeking more than $6 million in damages.

Neither government agency responded to their claim, allowing them to move forward with a lawsuit, Miller said.

Both attorneys argue that state and city inspectors supervising the $3.5 million project were aware of unsafe working conditions and said so in reports.

Those deficiencies, however, were never addressed, the lawsuit states.

The contract with Mowat included cash incentives for early completion, fueling speculation that the company cut dangerous corners in order to boost profits, the lawyers said.

Mowat Vice President John Sandstrom did not return telephone calls Tuesday. City and state officials could not be reached for comment.

, DataTimes

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