A lengthy piece published this week in the New York Times tells the sad story of a 2008 industrial accident in Manhattan and the chain of events leading up to it. It is a story of corners cut and the fatal consequences that followed: of an American employer desperate to lower costs, a Chinese supplier making inflated claims for its products and due diligence that was never done.
The fatal accident involved a construction crane that collapsed at a building site on New York’s Upper West Side as a result of a faulty weld on the crane’s turntable. As the Times notes, there has been much testimony at the manslaughter trial of the crane’s owner “about the failed weld… and how the Chinese company was unable to satisfactorily perform a vital weld on the turntable. But little has been said about another aspect of the company: its description of itself was largely inflated or simply not true.”
As the newspaper goes on to report, the Chinese company, RTR Bearing Company Limited, claimed to have a 10-year history of high-end industrial work around the globe and to employ 109 people in two factories and a quality control center. In fact, the company was barely six months old when first contacted by the New York firm that eventually bought its crane, and appears to have been little more than a 3rd party marketer of other Chinese manufacturers’ goods. In an affidavit in a related civil suit, the company’s founder acknowledged that RTR actually employs only seven people, none of them engineers, and “has no factory and does no manufacturing,” the paper reports.
Were the crane’s collapse to have happened in Oregon there is little doubt that it would fit our state’s definition of an Oregon industrial accident. Employers have an obligation to provide their employees with a safe working environment – an obligation that includes ensuring that the equipment the company purchases or leases is appropriate to the task at hand, safe to use and properly maintained. Due diligence can’t stop at a question of whether a supplier will deliver on time and deliver what was ordered. It also includes making sure that the ordered items or equipment were right for the job, that the company supplying the goods is who they say they are and that equipment is properly maintained.
The Times piece tells the story of a fatal accident made more tragic by its preventability. As an Oregon industrial accident attorney this is a tale one hears all too often. When it is told, however, it is always useful to add that those who suffer do have remedies open to them, and that our courts are here to help right the wrongs created by over-eager businesses.
New York Times: In 2008 Crane Collapse, Scrutiny on Supplier of Part