State Laws On Workers’ Comp Limits Lawsuits In Building Collapse

Investigates

A KELOLAND Investigation into the Copper Lounge building collapse has discovered that the family of the construction worker, who died, Ethan McMahon, may have a difficult time pursuing a case in court against the construction company he worked for.

It all has to do with Workers’ Compensation and South Dakota laws surrounding the insurance.  

According to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, Hultgren Construction had a Workers’ Compensation policy for its employees. By state law, the family would have to prove intentional injury by McMahon’s employer in order to bring a lawsuit

A Workers’ Compensation attorney told Angela Kennecke that intention can be very difficult to prove. 

KELOLAND News first showed you this wall between Copper Lounge and Skelly’s being removed on November 30. The city says Hultgren did not have the proper permits to do so. A subcontractor who was in the building just two days before the collapse told us the wall was completely out by that time.
 
Workers’ Compensation would provide death benefits amounting to 2/3 of McMahon’s weekly salary to any of his children through the age of 18 or 22, if they are a full-time student.

McMahon was not married. If he had a spouse she would have been entitled to that benefit. Workers’ Compensation also covers up to $10,000 in funeral and burial expenses. 

While Workers’ Compensation laws in South Dakota make it very difficult for McMahon’s family to bring a case against Hultgren Construction, they could potentially sue others involved, such as subcontractors or the building’s owner, Legacy Developments, of which Aaron Hultgren is a partner. 

Sioux Falls Emergency Manager Regan Smith says the city has created a log of is expenses, just as it would in the case of a natural disaster where it would seek reimbursement from the state or FEMA.

In this case, the city will wait to see if any party is found responsible for the collapse and bill them.

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