Sunesis Construction Co. v. Industrial Commission of OhioAnnotate this Case
In 2005, Roark, a Sunesis laborer, was working alone at the bottom of a trench, when the trench collapsed, killing him. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation awarded Roark’s dependent children benefits. The dependents sought an additional award based on violations of specific safety requirements for sloping, shoring, and bracing. A hearing officer concluded that Roark’s death was the result of Sunesis’s failure to properly support the trench and ordered Sunesis to pay an additional award based on violations of Ohio Adm.Code 4123:1-3-13. On remand, a hearing officer issued factual findings based on photographs and testimony: Three sides of the trench were adequately shored. The fourth wall, which caved in on Roark, consisted of soil that Sunesis attempted to shore up by sloping the wall and inserting a steel plate above the slope. The hearing officer found no evidence that Roark disregarded instructions to work inside a large underground pipe. On rehearing, in 2012, a hearing officer identified the soil involved as soft material, Class C soil with groundwater, stating that Code Table 13-1 addresses the approximate angle of repose for sloping: The presence of groundwater requires special treatment. The commission, the Tenth District, and the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the award. It was within the commission’s discretion to conclude that the trench was not properly shored or braced, exposing employees to the danger of moving ground and that failure to comply with the regulations proximately caused Roark’s death.