Corporation Convicted of Homicide Sentenced to Pay $1.7 Million

20 Corporate Crime Reporter 5(6), January 26, 2006

A state court judge in Yuma, Arizona today sentenced a company convicted of negligent homicide to pay $1.7 million.

Judge Andrew Gould ordered Far West Water & Sewer to pay $500,000 to the family of James Gamble, one of the workers killed an October 2001 accident.

The judge also ordered the company to pay $500,000 to the family of Nathan Garrett who was injured in the accident.

And he imposed an additional $770,000 criminal fine on the company.

Last year, a jury convicted the company of negligent homicide in connection with the death of Gamble, 24.
In October 2001, Gamble entered the tank to remove a plug blocking sewage while a Far West Water & Sewer foreperson turned on a pump running sewage into the tank through another line.

Gamble inhaled sewage gas and immediately collapsed into the tank.

Witnesses for the state of Arizona testified that the air in the sewer tank had not been tested during the day, the workers were not properly trained, safety equipment was not available or used, and required safety and rescue procedures were not followed.

Another worker, Gary Lanser, 62, also died in the incident.

But according to Mark Horlings, the assistant attorney general who helped prosecute the case, the jury found the company not guilty of reckless manslaughter as to the death of Lanser and hung on the charge of negligent homicide as to Lanser.

The company was convicted of aggravated assault and endangerment in connection with the injuries to a third worker – Nathan Garrett.

And the company was convicted of one count of endangering the life of Gamble and one count of violating safety standards and causing Gamble’s death.

According to Horlings, the maximum fine would have been $9 million – $1 million for each of the five felonies plus an additional $4 million surcharge.

But Andrea Esquer, a spokesperson for the Arizona Attorney General, said that AG was pleased with the sentence.

(For a complete transcript of the interview with Horlings, see Interview with Mark Horlings, 20 Corporate Crime Reporter (3)(12-16), January 13, 2006, print edition only)