Trash firm fights immigrant death claim

HOUSTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A garbage disposal company is fighting a Houston worker's wrongful death judgment on the grounds he would have been deported.

Oscar Alfredo Gomez, 21, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, was run over by a garbage truck driven by another Republic Waste Services employee four years ago. After his death, the company learned that he faked his paperwork and used another person's Social Security number to gain employment, the Houston Chronicle reported.


After a jury awarded the Gomez family more than $1.4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, Republic appealed, contending Gomez probably would have been deported in a raid of its office two weeks after his death. It argued the compensation should be based on his projected future wages in El Salvador -- a mere $1,000 annually -- rather than his U.S. earnings of $33,000.

An appellate court rejected that argument Jan. 20, ruling the trial court was right to exclude evidence about Gomez's immigration status.

"We believe this is a landmark decision because if undocumented workers are working and they get injured or killed, they deserve the same rights as anyone else," said Houston attorney Benny Agosto Jr., who represented the Gomez family.


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