James B. Rogers

Sister of man ‘buried alive’ want lawsuit restarted

The attorney for the sister of a man “buried alive” in a 2016 trench collapse filed a motion to reactivate the lawsuit in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court.

James B. Rogers, 33, of Winchester, died June 15, 2016, when he was covered by dirt after a nearly 11-foot trench collapsed while he was trying to install a sewer pipe during the construction of a Washington Twp. residence.

Tara Brown sued the house’s developer, contractor and a subcontractor, but the civil case had been on hold due to U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings against defendants.

RELATED: Company whose worker died in trench collapse had earlier safety violations

Brown’s attorney, Craig Matthews, said Friday the bankruptcy court instead agreed to delay its case so the civil suit could proceed against KRW Plumbing Inc., its owner Richard Williams and others.

“Plaintiff therefore moves the Court to reactive these delayed proceedings so that the family of James Rogers, who suffered a tragic and preventable death on June 15, 2016, can put this matter to rest,” Matthews wrote in a motion to Judge Gregory Singer. “Plaintiff sadly notes that since the death of James, two more Ohioans were killed in trench deaths.”

Matthews referenced Dayton Daily News articles about the deaths of Zachary Hess in Morrow in 2017 and Dalbert Burton in Sugarcreek Twp. earlier this year.

RELATED: ‘It’s getting deep’ man texted before death in trench

“Trench collapse deaths are entirely preventable when standard safety measures are followed,” Matthews wrote. “Plaintiff intends to prove that there is an obligation imposed upon developers, builders and contractors that they be aware of and construct buildings in accordance with basic safety standards.”

Burton was working for Payne Enterprises, a Dayton-based contractor that records show was cited for safety violations in 2017, 2018 and in January of this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Payne Enterprises paid $18,276 in fines from the citations in 2017 and 2018, a settlement amount from the initial penalties that totaled $36,552, according to the records. A third safety violation was filed Jan. 14, and that case remains pending.

RELATED: Worker dies in trench collapse at Sugarcreek Twp. construction site

Rogers’ widow was awarded a workers compensation settlement, according to Ohio Industrial Commission records. Case records show Williams had no defense for violating specific trench safety codes.

“How many more Ohioans will unnecessarily die in trench collapses if courts throughout the State do not strongly admonish developers, builders and contractors to follow basic safety standards?” Matthews wrote. “The defendants should not be allowed to further delay this Court in answering that burning question.”

RELATED: More than 150 people tried to save man who died in Warren County trench

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