Manslaughter charges against a Boston drain company are reinvigorating efforts to increase penalties for firms convicted of manslaughter in Massachusetts. A bill to raise the fine to $250,000 from $1,000 was re-filed in January, after Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks died in a trench collapse on Oct. 21, 2016. Last month, Atlantic Drain Services Inc. and its owner, Kevin Otto, were each arraigned on two counts of manslaughter, among other charges.
Massachusetts’ $1,000 penalty was adopted 198 years ago. Katie Tracy, an analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform, is collecting data on corporate manslaughter and reckless homicide penalties across the country. She believes Massachusetts has one of the lowest penalties in the nation. Noting that Oregon and Washington have fines of up to $50,000, Tracy says, “I can’t imagine another state having a penalty lower than $1,000 for manslaughter.” In New York, where Harco Construction recently was found guilty of a fatal trench collapse, the penalty is $10,000, Tracy said.