LaVerne David quietly shed tears in Halifax provincial court Thursday as she grappled with bitterness, the deepest of heartaches, and her struggle to forgive the treatment her family suffered after a workplace accident 3½ years ago that led to the death of her 47-year-old son.
She was seated in the first row of the public gallery for the sentencing hearing of furniture company The Brick, which was convicted in September of occupational health and safety charges linked to the death of delivery driver Martin David.
David, a father of four, died two days after a fall that fractured his skull on the morning of June 9, 2020, at a Brick location in the Bayers Lake business park on the outskirts of Halifax.
What his family has found so galling is that no one from The Brick called to tell them he'd been taken away by ambulance, and it was only 30 hours later that they were phoned by a Halifax hospital and learned he was in intensive care.
"My God tells me I must forgive, because if I don't forgive then he can't forgive me," LaVerne David said in an interview. "Somebody should have called one of us to let us know that Martin was in the hospital. That's the only thing we said from the beginning: 'Why wouldn't you call?'"
Martin David's father, Martin David Sr., said in an interview that no one from The Brick attended his son's funeral, or even sent a card. The CEO of the company did reach out by phone, but only following a CBC story published three days after the accident.
The loading dock of The Brick in Halifax is shown in 2020. (Robert Short/CBC)
It was the father who first contacted the Department of Labour, which had not been told by The Brick about his son's accident. The department subsequently launched an investigation and laid charges.
In court, Crown prosecutor Alex Keaveny argued The Brick should be sentenced to $215,625 in fines, and ordered to do four safety presentations. Defence lawyer Ron Pizzo suggested a fine in the range of $20,000.
In September, following a trial, Judge Elizabeth Buckle found The Brick guilty of three occupational health and safety charges, including two for failing to implement its policies around injury investigation and lighting, and one of failing to ensure the toilet facility was properly illuminated.
David was found by a co-worker on the floor of the washroom, with his head in his arms. He was vomiting and not fully coherent. The court heard the co-worker thought David had become ill, and didn't realize he was injured. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital.
Buckle ruled the lights were off in the washroom at the time. There was no switch either inside or outside the washroom, and the lights were on a timer and had not come on yet. It was clear he'd fallen inside the washroom or in the darkened hallway outside.
While finding the company guilty of breaking health and safety regulations, Buckle later ruled the Crown had not proven that the lack of lighting had led to David's fall.
Marty David Sr. holds his youngest grandchild, Makani, in a photo from 2020. (Shaina Luck/CBC)
Earlier, David had fallen at a loading dock at the warehouse, but video surveillance indicated he did not hurt his head and he was able to continue working.
David was Black, and his mother wrote in a victim impact statement presented to the court that "the power of the wealthy seems to rule the world."
"I know that in this world our race is seen as inferior, the lives of our sons are treated as subhuman, and our families discounted, but today I pray for justice for Martin's sons and that no other family will ever have to endure what our family has been through," LaVerne David wrote.
Pizzo, the lawyer for The Brick, told the court the company has made significant changes since the death. Lighting changes were made to the warehouse, with backup generators installed. The lights remain on in the washrooms 24 hours a day.
The Brick has also reviewed and changed its policies to make them clearer, and has done more training for employees on reporting, according to Greg Nakonechny, the vice-president of legal at the company.
The Brick has changed the lighting in its warehouse and washrooms. (Robert Short/CBC)
In an interview, he said he appreciates the impact the accident, and what happened in the aftermath, has had on the David family.
"I'm just very sorry that this has happened," he said.
He said Brick employees didn't realize how serious the situation was. An employee did make contact by text with David's spouse a little more than 24 hours after he was taken to hospital.
"Our team probably could have done more, but did make attempts to try to reach out to the family," Nakonechny said.
The court was told that David loved writing poetry, photography and training in mixed martial arts. He volunteered with the Upper Hammonds Plains fire department.
Laura Jordan, his spouse and the mother of his two youngest children, wrote in a victim impact statement that she has lost a best friend, and that their two sons are losing the memory of their father.
"I cry because my boys don't have a father to teach them how to be men, things I can't teach them," she wrote. "I cry because I loved him and needed him so much."
The judge is expected to deliver a sentence on April 10.
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