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4 injured workers sue over collapse at Ohio casino

Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press

From left to right, Damon Robinson, 36, of Lexington, Ky., Mark Hedges, 45, of Cincinnati., Jim Lancaster, 46, of Alexandria, Ky., and Micah Morthland, 38, of Highland Heights, Ky., pose in front of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Cincinnati, shortly after filing a lawsuit against builders of Cincinnati's first and only casino, slated to open in the spring. The men were injured while pouring concrete on a second floor at the casino in January and allege that the construction firms neglected safety to get the project done on time. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Four workers injured earlier this year when a floor collapsed at the construction site of Cincinnati's casino filed a lawsuit Monday against the project's builders, accusing them of neglecting safety to get the project done on time.

The lawsuit, filed in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, says all four of the workers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and are in financial ruin as a result of the Jan. 27 collapse at the casino, still under construction in downtown Cincinnati.

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages for workers Damon Robinson, 36, of Lexington, Ky.; Mark Hedges, 45, of Cincinnati; Jim Lancaster, 46, of Alexandria, Ky.; and Micah Morthland, 38, of Highland Heights, Ky.

The men and at least eight other workers were pouring concrete on the second floor of the two-story casino when structural beams collapsed and a 60-foot-by-60-foot section of floor came down, causing the men to fall at least 25 feet as liquid concrete cascaded on them.

No one was killed, but the lawsuit says Hedges, Lancaster, Morthland and Robinson all were seriously injured and still struggle today with pain from the injuries and PTSD.

Robinson "still has recurring nightmares and cannot stand the smell of concrete because he was buried in it," according to the lawsuit. "The sight of steel support beams and concrete terrify him."

Lancaster said Monday that he was the one who got the four men together to take action because he said nothing was getting done and all of them have been forced to make cutbacks because of lost income, either because they can't find work or are in too much pain to work very much.

He said any money they've received from workman's compensation has fallen far short of their previous wages.

"Somebody needs to be held accountable for what took place," said Lancaster, whose injuries included two broken spinal vertebrae that he says still requires him to take nine pain and anxiety pills a day to function.

All four men said the casino and the construction companies downplayed the collapse and that they thought they were going to die when the floor suddenly fell out from under them that day.

"One guy was saying, 'Oh God, oh God, oh God,' and another was just sobbing," said Robinson, whose injuries included fractured spinal vertebrae, a fractured rib, a severe fracture to his elbow and internal injuries, among others. "I looked over at my friend and I thought he was dead."

The lawsuit accuses Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Company, the site's general contractor, of frequently ordering workers to pour concrete in the rain and freezing cold "knowing this negates concrete's ability to set."

"Messer required this to meet deadlines without regard to the integrity of the structure," the lawsuit says, adding that the January collapse was the result of the weight of wet concrete and the workers, and an inadequate number of bolts securing steel support beams.

Messer spokeswoman Tiffany Witham declined to comment, saying the company does not respond to pending litigation.

The company has previously said it operates in a safe manner.

The lawsuit also accuses other construction companies on the project of inadequately overseeing safety.

Federal safety inspectors who investigated the collapse cited four companies, including Messer, for safety violations, carrying about $37,000 in fines.

Slated to open in the spring, the $400 million Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati is among four casinos approved by Ohio voters in 2009 to generate taxes for the state. Casinos in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus all opened this year.

The casinos' gross revenues will be taxed at 33 percent, among the highest rates in the country, and will go toward public school districts, cities and counties, the state's gambling commission and law enforcement training, among other programs.


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