The contractor in the December 2007 collapse of a Jacksonville, Fla., parking garage during construction is claiming exoneration by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for responsibility in the catastrophe. A laborer died, and 23 other workers were injured. But OSHA insists that the case remains open, despite the agency’s formal settlement with the contractor.

Garage-collapse case still open.
Photo: Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Dept.
Garage-collapse case still open.

In June 2008, OSHA concluded its investigation into the collapse of the Berkman Plaza II parking structure and proposed penalties totaling $192,800 against Choate Construction Co., Atlanta, the general contractor; Southern Pan Services, Lithonia, Ga., the concrete formwork contractor; and A.A. Pittman Concrete, Jacksonville, the finishing contractor, for nine alleged safety violations. In mid-April, OSHA and Choate agreed to settle Choate’s proposed violations, reclassifying one willful violation to “serious” and penalizing Choate $14,000 for that and a “less-than-serious” violation. Choate accepted the penalty without admitting wrongdoing or safety violations, and the settlement was recorded as final on June 1.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission currently is examining Southern Pan’s two alleged willful violations and two alleged serious violations. Southern Pan has denied the allegations, says Mark Waschak, the company’s attorney. No information is available on Pittman’s case.

Choate issued a statement on June 9 emphasizing a stipulation of facts in its settlement that includes the comment, “The Secretary of Labor does not contend that the acts, transactions, or occurrences which are the subject matter of the citations issued to Choate…caused the collapse.”

Nonetheless, an OSHA spokesman says, “While it is true that OSHA and the company have reached a formal settlement, the case is still regarded as ‘open.’”