A wrongful death lawsuit claims a local construction company and a governmental agency failed to protect a worker from hazardous conditions at a Las Vegas construction site where he fell more than 20 feet to his death in September 2017.
On the morning of Sept. 25, Russell Tracy — an experienced iron worker and industrial painter — and his partner were ready for inspection after sandblasting pipes inside a 22-foot manhole that state officials have said was not properly safeguarded at a Las Vegas Paving Corp. construction site near Las Vegas Boulevard South and Jonathan Drive. It was his first day on the job with Olsen Precast Co.
Shortly after the inspection, Tracy was found dead at the bottom of the manhole. He was 46.
OSHA ultimately found in its investigation that Olsen Precast had “committed a willful violation with plain indifference to employee’s safety and health,” and the agency slapped the company with $82,000 in fines last March, according to reports provided to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Since then, Tracy’s wife, Meredith, has been caught in the middle of an ongoing battle with Olsen Precast for workers’ compensation — a case that her attorney, Tom Askeroth, has said highlights Nevada’s broken workers’ compensation system.
Because of workers’ compensation laws, Olsen Precast was not named a defendant in the wrongful death suit, which was filed in late May in Clark County District Court on behalf of Meredith Tracy and the couple’s four children: Colin, Kevin, Callie and Kannon.
“Arguably, Meredith’s only recourse for recovery against Olsen Precast is through workers’ compensation,” Askeroth said Wednesday.
Instead, the lawsuit, filed against Las Vegas Paving and the Clark County Water Reclamation District, which was present on the job site that day, alleges both “had prior knowledge of Olsen Precast’s obvious safety violation” and were “specifically aware that Olsen Precast was not using a guardrail, or other similar safety devices to prevent falls, on Manhole No. 8 immediately prior to Mr. Tracy’s death.”
Both also “had a duty to maintain a safe construction site free from hazardous conditions, including the area surrounding Manhole No. 8,” according to the complaint.
Marty Flynn, a spokesman for the district, declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit.
Neither Jim Barker, a spokesman for Las Vegas Paving, nor the company’s attorney, Tye Hanseen, responded to multiple requests for comment.
“The lawsuit is the first step in a long process,” Askeroth said. “Litigation could go on for several more years.”
Tracy is seeking compensation from Las Vegas Paving and the reclamation district “for the harms and losses suffered by Meredith and the estate of Russell Tracy.”
As for the workers’ comp case, a judge in January sided with Meredith Tracy, awarding her full survivor benefits.
But Olsen Precast filed an appeal, and the case, which Askeroth suspects could be in limbo for another year before it is resolved, remained ongoing as of Wednesday.
In the meantime, Askeroth said, “Meredith is just living day to day doing the best she can. Right now, she’s mostly concerned about her family and taking care of her kids.”