Father of man killed in 1992 trench cave-in sues contractor

March 15, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The father of a Glen Burnie man killed in a trench cave-in two years ago has filed a $4 million suit in Anne Arundel Circuit Court against the contractors he claims his son was working for when the accident occurred.

Fred R. Duckworth of the 200 block of Ferndale Road alleges that Rodger and Arthur Myers, two Crownsville contractors, were negligent when they allowed his son to dig a trench on the Myerses' property in soil so unstable that it was "inherently dangerous and hazardous."

Aaron Duckworth, 32, was buried alive March 15, 1992 in the 12-foot-deep trench he was digging to connect underground sewer lines on the Myers' property in the 700 block of Old Herald Harbor Road, according to the suit.

Firefighters dug for 12 hours March 15 and March 16 before recovering the body, wedged against a wall 6 feet below the surface.

The victim was living in a trailer on the Myerses' property when the accident occurred, said Mr. Duckworth's attorney, Bruce J. Babij.

County police said the Myerses were helping Mr. Duckworth dig a trench for a sewer line to his trailer, but took a coffee break.

When they returned, they found the cave-in.

Rodger Myers said yesterday that he was "devastated" by the accident.

"I would have done anything in my power to keep it from happening. He [Aaron Duckworth] was like a family member to me," he said.

State officials levied $42,000 in fines against the Myerses, but the state Maryland Occupational and Safety Health office (MOSH) rescinded the fines July 27, 1993.

An administrative judge found that at the time of the accident Mr. Duckworth was not an employee of the Myerses under statutory definitions, Mr. Babij said.

He said the ruling essentially meant MOSH had no authority for issuing fines, because Mr. Duckworth was working in exchange for free lodging and was not being paid.

But he said a different set of standards will be followed when the case is tried in Circuit Court.

"I think it's going to be exceeding difficult for a jury not to find that this guy was not an employee," he said.

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