Was it suicide or an accident? Michigan AG reviews death of worker at Little Caesars Arena

Apr 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
click to enlarge Little Caesars Arena. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Little Caesars Arena.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Labor are reviewing the June 2017 death of a 46-year-old electrician at Little Caesars Arena.

Michael Morrison, of St. Clair Shores, was working on a steel beam when he plunged seven stories to his death.

Was it an accident or suicide?

The Detroit Police Department and Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office declared it an accident. So did a longtime inspector at the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). But MIOSHA overruled its own inspector, ousted him, destroyed his handwritten notes, and declared the death a suicide, according to an investigative report in The Detroit Free Press.

Questions by the Free Press prompted Nessel and the Labor Department to review MIOSHA’s handling of the case. Safety experts also raised “questions about whether regulators are putting big business ahead of Michigan workers,” wrote Free Press investigative reporter Jennifer Dixon.

The cause of death is a big deal because an accident can increase the costs of workers’ comp, other insurance, and performance and payment bonds.

Morrison’s widow, Lynne Morrison, is trying to collect workers’ comp death benefits, but the suspicious ruling is standing in her way.

Her attorney, Joel Alpert, called MIOSHA’s handling of the case “perplexing but not surprising.”

"MIOSHA is supposed to be independent, but the facts here appear to show a significant bias in favor of the business community and that does not serve the people of the State of Michigan,” Alpert said.

MIOSHA stood by its findings.

“MIOSHA’s mission is to help protect the safety and health of Michigan workers," MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman told the Free Press. "The investigation determined there were no MIOSHA rules or recognized safety practice that would have prevented Mr. Morrison’s unfortunate death.” 

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