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B.C. construction company, foreman face criminal charges in 11-year-old case

Jean Sorensen
B.C. construction company, foreman face criminal charges in 11-year-old case

Lawyers will be appearing in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 15 to move forward on a case involving an 11-year-old construction incident that has resulted in criminal negligence charges being laid against a B.C. company and its former foreman.  

J. Cote & Son Excavating Ltd. and then foreman David Green have been charged with criminal negligence resulting in the death of pipelayer Jeffrey Caron and criminal negligence resulting in injury to another pipelayer Thomas Richer. Green faces an additional charge of manslaughter.

The crown laid the charges on Aug. 17 by way of indictment, which means it proceeded directly to B.C. Supreme Court, without a provincial court hearing. Both J. Cote & Son Excavating and Green are charged in the same indictment.   

Criminal defense lawyer William Smart, acting for J. Cote & Son Excavating, and Brock Martland, representing Green, have both stated publically their clients deny the charges.

Both parties have yet to enter a plea in B.C. Supreme Court. Earlier court appearances have focused on identifying defense counsels and providing the defense lawyers time to review the charges. 

The Crown has appointed Leslie Fillingham and Louisa Winn to prosecute the case. Wynn said she anticipates arraignment will occur at the Nov. 15 date in B.C. Supreme Court where a plea will be entered and a trial date determined if required.   

The incident occurred Oct. 11, 2012 in a north Burnaby area north of Edinburgh Street where J. Cote & Son Excavating had a municipal contract installing a combination storm and sanitation sewer line on city land.  A gravity retaining wall, which the city had built, toppled onto two pipelayers working in a 1.2 metre trench near it.  

Caron, 28, was killed while Richer suffered severe injuries. Two years after the incident Richer led a “Justice for Jeff campaign” urging the RCMP to lay charges against the company and speaking out publically about the incident.   

WorkSafeBC (WSBC) carried out an investigation in 2013 and issued a 30-page report claiming the company failed to recognize hazards onsite. 

J. Cote & Son Excavating appealed the report’s findings and at the time issued a statement to CBC, through its corporate lawyers, saying an engineer’s excavation report had been in place and that all safety requirements had been followed.

Also, J. Cote & Son Excavating and the Burnaby municipality had appointed a mutually agreed upon referee to determine actions leading to the fatality and injury.

The referee disagreed with the WSBC inspector findings and indicated the inspector had not read the engineer’s report accurately and that J. Cote & Son Excavating had complied with all relevant OHS regulations. The referee’s findings were not legally binding.

The file was turned over to the RCMP for further investigation in 2014. The RCMP does not recommend charges but did submit information to the B.C. Crown Prosecutors office which determines if there is enough information to proceed with charges.

None of the crown’s accusations against the company and Green have been proven in court.

Founded in 1976, J. Cote & Son Excavating Ltd. is a B.C. site servicing, utilities and road work contractor specializing in civil infrastructure, commercial, industrial, residential development and environmental construction projects.

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