The family of a worker who died last summer in a sewer accident has sued the city of Saint Paul and a contractor alleging they were negligent.
Thirty-four year old Joe Harlow of Plainview, Minn., was one of two workers swept away when storm water surged into the tunnels they were working in. Their bodies were later found in the Mississippi River.
The suit alleges that CNA Consulting Engineers, the firm contracted by the city to repair the tunnels, failed to maintain a safe work environment. It also alleges that the city, which owns the tunnels, was liable for CNA's actions. Harry Sieben, the attorney for the family, says the workers should not have been sent into the tunnels on a day that forecasted rain.
"What appears to be a small amount of rain on the surface is collected in the sewers and it can quickly turn into a torrent in the sewer system because the storm sewers drain the water and the system can rise very fast even though it's a small amount of rain on the surface," says Sieben. The family of the other worker who was killed has also retained Sieben's firm, but they have not yet taken legal action.
The St. Paul City Attorney said Friday that the city negotiated a clause into the contract that it believed obligates the contractor to pay for any losses. A state investigation into the incident is continuing.