As you may remember, in 2008, a worker at Long Island Wal-Mart store was trampled by customers running into the store for a sale known as the “Black Friday Blitz.”
Following worker’s death from on-the-job injuries, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation into whether Wal-Mart was responsible for workers’ death, and if so, if the company should be required to pay a fine. Wal-Mart was also facing workers’ compensation claims and possible criminal charges in connection with this tragic work-related death.
With respect to criminal charges and workers’ compensation claims, Wal-Mart agreed to $400,000 in victim’s compensation and to make donations in the amount of $1.5 million to non-profit social services organizations. However, this did not stop the OSHA investigation from continuing.
When OSHA had completed its investigation, the agency determined Wal-Mart had failed to implement reasonable crowd control measures and that this failure had directly contributed to worker’s death. OSHA determined a fine of a maximum of $7,000 should be imposed for this failure to set up crowd control measures.
While Wal-Mart was willing to pay nearly $2 million as part of workers’ compensation settlements and government requests, the company did not want to pay this $7,000. Presumably that would involve an admission of responsibility, which is not required in a settlement. As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, fault is not required to obtain benefits in connection with a work-related injury or even death. It is only necessary to establish claimant was an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor, and was injured while on the job.
This is one of the major differences between workers’ compensation and a civil personal injury lawsuit. In a civil personal injury lawsuit, it is necessary to prove defendant was negligent in connection with plaintiff’s injuries. On other hand, in a workers’ compensation case, it does not generally matter whose fault an accident was.
According to a recent news article from the Boston Globe, Wal-Mart has spent the past six years fighting this $7,000 OSHA has imposed on them following conclusion of its investigation into the worker’s 2008 death.
The article notes the corporation has actually spent millions of dollars fighting the fine established by OSHA’s Boston office, which headed the accident investigation. The company first had a hearing before an independent administrative law judge (ALJ), who ruled in favor of OSHA and upheld the penalty and ruling from the investigation. After that, company filed a series of additional appeals.
Now, after six years have gone by and millions of dollars have been spent to challenge the $7,000 fine, Wal-Mart has finally decided to accept the original agency findings and pay the fine. A company spokesperson said pursuing another round of appeals would be a very lengthy process, and it was time to put this incident behind them.
The company may have technically accepted responsibility in paying the fine, but did not do so in spirit, as it issued a statement the fine was unfair, and OSHA’s findings were equally unfair, as it held them to an unfair standard.
If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.
Wal-Mart stops contesting fine for Black Friday death em> , March 19, 2015, Boston Globe
More Blog Entries:
LeFiell Mfg. v. Super. Ct.: Workers’ Compensation Exclusivity and Rare Exception, August 18, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog