The widow of an electrician who was killed in 2017 while working at Kenmore West High School has sued the school district and the company that managed the project.
Christy A. Gause's lawsuit against the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District and Campus Construction Management Group argues both parties violated state labor law in failing to provide a safe workplace for her late husband, Charles.
"Mr. Gause was an experienced electrician who would not have voluntarily put himself in a life-threatening situation," said Lawlor F. Quinlan III, a lawyer with Connors LLP who represents Christy Gause.
Charles Gause, who was 48, was an employee of CIR Electrical Construction Corp. when he was electrocuted at about 7 a.m. Aug. 30, 2017. CIR was hired to perform electrical work at the high school, 33 Highland Parkway in the Town of Tonawanda, as part of a district capital project.
Gause was working that morning in an electrical closet – a central hub for electrical services for the school – that is off-limits to staff and students. He was taken to Kenmore Mercy Hospital, where he was declared dead.
It's not clear exactly what happened that morning to Gause, who was alone in the closet at the time he was "exposed to an unguarded, energized electrical circuit," the lawsuit contends.
Inspectors from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident. An accident summary from OSHA simply states Gause was installing electrical equipment when "he came into contact with live parts."
OSHA concluded its inspection last year without issuing any violations or fines against Campus Construction Management or CIR Electrical.
Gause's lawsuit, filed last year in State Supreme Court, argues that state law required the school district and the construction manager to either de-energize the electrical circuit or put insulation or some other guard around it.
"The defendants failed to comply with that statute," Quinlan said.
Kevin Kruppa, the attorney for the school district and Campus Construction Management, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
In a response to Christy Gause's complaint, Kruppa denied the claims made in the lawsuit and argued that Gause was at least partly responsible for his own death.
John Ticco, Campus Construction's executive vice president, declined to comment on the lawsuit but noted Campus Construction did not have a contractual relationship with CIR.
Patrick Fanelli, a Ken-Ton Schools spokesman, said the district would not comment on the lawsuit. He referred The Buffalo News to a statement issued by the district following the accident.
It read, in part, "The district is fully cooperating with the investigation of this matter and remains committed to ensuring that work on district property is performed safely and in accordance with all applicable workplace standards."
Gause, who lived in Hamburg, was a father of three.
"Mr. Gause was a loving and caring husband and father, and his loss has been devastating for his family," Quinlan said.