Thursday, October 13, 2016

A construction worker with Shiel Sexton was injured after falling 20-30 feet off a catwalk at a work site on Purdue University’s campus

Construction worker falls 20-30 feet on Purdue’s campus

Alexandra Kruczek/Brittany Tyner Published: October 11, 2016, 5:16 pm Updated: October 12, 2016, 8:27 am

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A construction worker was injured after falling off a catwalk at a work site on Purdue University’s campus Tuesday.

Purdue officials said the incident happened near the Electrical Engineering Building around 8:30 a.m. University police and fire departments responded to a report of an injured construction worker who fell 20-30 feet from a catwalk at the Duncan Annex site.

The worker was first taken to IU Health Arnett in Lafayette. According to a representative with the construction company, the worker was then taken to an Indianapolis hospital.

The worker’s name and condition have not been released at this time.

The construction company said an active investigation into the incident is underway.

University officials said the upper portion of the Duncan Annex is undergoing renovations into office space, which is part of a larger multibuilding project within the College of Engineering.


OCTOBER 12, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Southern, the man injured Tuesday in a construction accident on Purdue's campus, had surgery to repair a limb injured in the 30-foot fall.

Kevin Hunt, chief operating officer for Shiel Sexton, which is an Indianapolis construction firm, said Wednesday that the surgery went well.

Southern, who is from Greater Indianapolis, fell from a catwalk at the Electrical Engineering at Duncan Annex, which is being renovated, Purdue officials said Tuesday. He is employed by a second-tier subcontractor, not directly by Shiel Sexton, Hunt said.

Southern was taken to IU Health Arnett after the 8:30 a.m. Tuesday fall and transferred later that day to IU Methodist in Indianapolis, Hunt said.

Investigators from Shiel Sexton and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on site Wednesday, Hunt said.


Shiel Sexton wins appeal in undocumented immigrant case
Kristine Guerra , 11:19 p.m. EDT March 31, 2016

Man injured on job while an undocumented worker in Indiana

Noe Escamilla is suing Shiel Sexton Co., whose attorneys argue Escamilla's lost wages should be based on what he would've earned in Mexico. Stephen J. Beard / IndyStar

(Photo: Provided photo)

A divided Indiana Court of Appeals panel ruled against a Mexican man who is seeking to recover lost income after he was permanently injured at a construction job site in Crawfordsville.

Noe Escamilla, who moved to the United States illegally as a teenager, cannot present expert testimony on his future lost wages based on U.S. dollars, the appeals court ruled in a 2-1 decision issued Thursday.

The expert, in preparing her report on Escamilla's lost earnings, did not take into account his status as an undocumented immigrant and his risk of deportation, according to the opinion.

The appeals court upheld pretrial rulings by a Montgomery Superior Court judge, who decided last summer that because Escamilla could not legally work in the U.S., he could claim lost wages based only on what he would've made in Mexico, his home country. Judge Heather Dennison also ruled that the jury hearing Escamilla's case is entitled to know that he was an undocumented immigrant at the time of his December 2010 injury.

​Escamilla's case raises broader policy questions on whether undocumented immigrants who are injured on the job should be allowed to recover income that some say they cannot legally earn. But the appeals court shied away from "making sweeping pronouncements about the rights of immigrants" and instead narrowly decided only on what evidence should and should not be presented to the jury.

Born in Mexico, Escamilla, 29, lived in Nevada and later in Indiana, working as a masonry laborer and using a Social Security number that belonged to someone else.

Escamilla was injured while working as a manual laborer for Masonry by Mohler, an Indianapolis company. He and other construction workers were lifting a heavy piece of stone at Wabash College. The back injury left him permanently unable to lift more than 20 pounds.

Court records say Masonry by Mohler neither verified Escamilla's immigration status nor checked his Social Security number, as federal law requires, until after Escamilla was injured. By then, he had been working there for two years.

Escamilla sued Masonry by Mohler's general contractor, Shiel Sexton Co., one of the largest construction managers in the state, to seek payment for medical expenses and to recover income he can no longer earn because of his injury.

In Indiana, employees receiving workers' compensation insurance give up the right to sue their employers in exchange for that insurance. So Escamilla cannot sue Masonry by Mohler, but he can sue the general contractor who is responsible for job site safety.

(Photo: Frank Espich/IndyStar 2015 file photo)

Shiel Sexton's attorney, John Mervilde, declined to comment on the ruling.

Escamilla's attorney, Timothy Devereux, said he intends to appeal the decision.

"If the ruling stands, we cannot have an expert testify what his future lost wage would be," Devereux said.

He also said that Escamilla, whose wife and three children are American citizens, is not at risk of being deported. Escamilla has applied to become a permanent resident, and he is eligible to obtain a work permit to work legally in the U.S. while his application is pending.

Devereux said he's disappointed that the ruling did not address the broader issue of whether an undocumented immigrant can recover damages for lost earnings and, if so, how those payments should be calculated.

In his dissenting opinion, appeals court Judge John Baker said evidence on Escamilla's immigration status is not relevant and would only provide a bad incentive to employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

"Because of the substantial difference between U.S. wages and those paid in neighboring countries, employers would know that they have a chance of paying substantially less in damages to an injured undocumented immigrant," Baker wrote.

Devereux agreed, saying he fears that evidence of Escamilla's undocumented status at the time of his injury would distract the jury from the real issue, given how strongly the public feels about immigration.

"Once you inject a person's immigration status, you're no longer talking about their injury, the result of their injury," Devereux said. "Suddenly, it becomes a tangential issue that has nothing to do with the fact of how they were injured. That's our fear."

Alexander Limontes, of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, said the ruling hurts Escamilla's chances of recovering any lost income.

"The jury is just going to look at him as another illegal," Limontes said. "All of a sudden, a case that should be about injuries and the negligence of someone ... becomes about immigration."

Escamilla has 30 days to either ask the appeals court to rehear the case or petition for the case to be transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court.