Estate says companies to blame for man's fatal fall from bridge

By Kelly Holleran | Aug 27, 2009

WHEELING – The administratrix of a deceased man's estate has filed suit against Armstrong Steel Protectors and The Velotta Company, blaming them for not equipping the man with proper gear to prevent him from falling off a 50-foot bridge.

Cindy Samuelson claims Roger Lee Samuelson was working for Armstrong Steel on Sept. 10, 2007.

Velotta contracted Armstrong Steel to perform work on a bridge it was constructing on U.S. 19 near Osage in Monongalia County, and Roger Lee Samuelson was one of the workers assigned to help with the bridge, according to the complaint moved to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia on July 23.

As part of his duties, Roger Lee Samuelson was required to install steel deck pans on iron angles and to secure them with tapping screws, the suit states. His job mandated Roger Lee Samuelson to work at an elevation of about 50 feet, the complaint says.

While working at that height, Roger Lee Samuelson was provided no fall protection – he was not tied off and had no guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems to protect him, Cindy Samuelson claims.

"At the aforesaid time and place, plaintiff's decedent put his weight on an unsecured panel which caused the panel to slide, thereby causing plaintiff's decedent to fall from the bridge approximately 50 feet into a creek bed containing approximately 8 inches of water and a rock bottom," the suit states.

Because of his tumble, Roger Lee Samuelson died on Sept. 10.
Before his death, Roger Lee Samuelson sustained extreme pain and suffering, the complaint says.

Cindy Samuelson claims she incurred medical, funeral and burial bills and lost wages. In addition, she has been deprived of Roger Lee Samuelson's society, companionship, comfort, guidance kindly offices, advice, services, protection, care and assistance, according to the complaint.

Velotta and Armstrong negligently failed to provide workers with fall protection and failed to provide adequate training and supervision for workers, according to the complaint.

However, both Velotta and Armstrong deny Cindy Samuelson's allegations against them and say the complaint should be dismissed because there was no unsafe working condition at the time of Roger Lee Samuelson's fall.

"The defendant did not have a subjective realization and appreciation of the existence of a specific unsafe working condition and/or high degree of risk and strong probability of serious injury or death presented by the incident," the defendants' answer to the complaint states.

Cindy Samuelson originally filed the complaint in Ohio Circuit Court on June 22, but the defendants removed the case to federal court on July 23. They say a diversity of citizenship exists between Cindy Samuelson, who is a West Virginia citizen, and Velotta and Armstrong, which are Ohio companies. In addition, Cindy Samuelson is seeking more than $75,000.

In the three-count suit, Samuelson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus pre-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Cindy Samuelson will be represented by Robert P. Fitzsimmons and Clayton J. Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons Law Offices in Wheeling and by Mark A. Colantonio of Frankovitch, Anetakis, Colantonio and Simon in Weirton.

Armstrong and Velotta will be represented by David L. Wyant of Bailey and Wyant in Wheeling.

U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-CV-86

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