Deported Illegal Immigrant Returns To R.I. for $30K Injury Settlement

January 16, 2008

An illegal immigrant from Mexico has won $30,000 in a settlement with his former Rhode Island employer after accidentally injuring himself with a chain saw.

Edgar Velasquez, who worked for a tree service company in Warwick, was chopping tree branches on March 31, 2006, when he accidentally slashed his face, slicing his nose, eyelid and forehead.

He underwent surgery but still has trouble closing his left eye.

Velasquez sued William Gorman Jr., his former boss and owner of Billy G’s Tree Care, seeking compensation for his injuries. He also accused Gorman of notifying immigration authorities that he was here illegally to block him from pursuing his case.

Immigration agents arrested Velasquez outside the courthouse in August 2006 on the day of a scheduled court hearing. Though Velasquez was deported, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security later granted him a humanitarian visa to return to the United States for three months for his court case.

Chief Workers’ Compensation Judge George E. Healey Jr. said he did not want “unscrupulous” employers to think they could avoid responsibility if a worker gets injured in an unsafe workplace.

“And the resolution of a case like this demonstrates otherwise,” Healey said.

The settlement disclosed Monday requires Gorman to pay Velasquez $300 a month, for 10 months a year, for 10 years _ or until he pays the entire $30,000. Velasquez’s lawyer, Stephen Dennis, said he had wanted more than $70,000 for his client.

If Gorman does not make the required payments, the state will fine him $150,000 for not having workers’ compensation at the time Velasquez was injured.

Gorman will make every effort to follow the payment schedule, his lawyer, Michael St. Pierre, said.

“I think, all in all, based on everything that happened over the last couple of years, it’s a fair settlement for both sides,” St. Pierre said.


Information from: The Providence Journal,

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