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After roof collapse, court holds no one is responsible for death of roofer

Pamela Lemmer filed a wrongful death suit after her husband, Jeff Deising, fell to his death.  Deising was a temporary day laborer hired by a roofing company that had contracted to lay a new roof over a building owned by Transport Repair Services, Inc., and RZ Properties in Kent County.  A 4 x 4 foot section of the roof collapsed underneath Deising while he was carrying new roofing material to the worksite. 

The roofing company claimed that it had no knowledge of the weakened condition of the lower two layers of roofing, even though it's salesman had been told that the roof had leaked for more than a year and the roof required repair.  Similarly, the owner argued that he was unaware of any hazard or defect in the lowerl levels of the roof, even though he knew the roof had been leaking in several locations for more than a year.

Ultimately, the roofer and the owner persuaded a jury that they had no knowledge of the dangerous condition of the roof, so the roofer's family was not allowed any recovery. The high court held that the lower court judge committed clear error by allowing the roofer to testify that he had consulted several other roofing companies, and that they said there was nothing he could have done to identify the rotting structure and protect his employees.  Nevertheless, it ruled that this error in admitting hearsay "expert" evidence was harmless error and did not influence the jury verdict.  The Court also ruled that while the family's requested jury instruction requiring the owner to "inspect" the premises and to identify hazardous conditions was a correct statement of law,  the judge's other instructions, which did not mention a specific duty to inspect, were an adequate substitute.

So the two entities in a position to prevent the death--the roofing expert and the building owner---are not accountable, and the burden of the death falls almost exclusively on the deceased man's family.  This is modern American jurisprudence in the Republican era.

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