Shelton firm sued over deaths at Philippines-based business
SHELTON — A Shelton-based firm put profits over safety, resulting in the deaths of more than three dozen people in a business it was operating in the Philippines, according a lawsuit filed against the company.
Dynata LLC operated a call-center in Davao City, Philippines, where 38 people died in a fire in November 2017, according to documents filed in Waterbury Superior Court in November. The suit has been brought by the families of 29 of the victims and does not specify damages.
The suit names two Connecticut-based executives who helped run the company when it was known as Survey Sampling International. The co-defendants, David Weather and Christopher Fanning, the former president and chief executive officer, no longer work for the company.
Attorney James Nealon, a partner with Greenwich-based Withers Bergman, which represents Dynata, Weather and Fanning, declined to comment on the lawsuit on Jan. 31.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs — Joseph DeCicco, who is administrator for several of the estates, and James Sullivan from Howard Kohn Sprague & Fitzgerald — did not return calls for comment.
The defendants, according to the lawsuit, “failed to take action to hire qualified personnel or take necessary and appropriate actions to provide a safe workplace for its foreign workers employed through SSI Philippines Inc.,” the agent through which Dynata ran its call center.
Reports state the fire occurred on the fourth floor, and the people killed were trapped and unable to exit the building.
Philippines fire safety officials “repeatedly warned of unsafe, dangerous, and life-threatening conditions that existed in the premises in which plaintiff descendants worked. Yet those known dangerous conditions and others persisted for years through and including the time of this tragedy,” states the lawsuit.
The suit states these “dangerous conditions” included a fire alarm for the fourth floor that was not connected to the alarm systems for the three other floors of the building and did not function properly. And, the suit says, steel lockers obstructed one of the two exits on the fourth floor, leaving it inaccessible; the control valve to the sprinkler system for the fourth floor was in a closed position so no water was available; and the central air system air duct did not have fire dampers, in turn allowing the “rapid spread of hot gases and smoke to the fourth floor.
The families’ attorneys state that Dynata “took jobs away from the United States, outsourced those jobs to a foreign company that they operated and controlled, and exploited the disadvantages of foreign citizens by paying very little in wage and benefits and providing little or no workplace safety oversight in order to keep operational costs as low as possible and business profits as high as possible.
“The labor cost, due to outsourcing of these jobs by defendant Dynata LLC, represents a huge saving to defendant,” states the lawsuit, adding that Dynata allegedly paid staff $175 to $350 a month. According to the suit, most of the calls made from the call center were polling and data inquiries conducted in English and placed to individuals living in the United States.