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State v. Far West Water & Sewer Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arizona
228 P.3d 909 (2010)


Facts

In October 2001, two employees of Far West Water & Sewer, Inc. (defendant), the owner and operator of a sewage-treatment facility, died in an underground tank after they entered without proper equipment and were suffocated by hydrogen sulfide gas. A third employee suffered serious injuries when he attempted to rescue the others. The State of Arizona (plaintiff) charged Far West with two counts of manslaughter, one count of aggravated assault, and various counts of endangerment and violating a safety standard or regulation. The state also charged Brent Weidman (defendant), Far West’s president and chief operating officer, with similar charges. At trial, the state introduced evidence concerning the responsibilities and background of Weidman and Rex Noll, Far West’s sewage-division supervisor. Both Weidman and Noll were professionals in the sewage-treatment industry, each with extensive training, knowledge, and experience with Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations and the regulations’ application to Far West’s operations. The jury convicted Far West of the lesser-included offense of negligent homicide, as well as aggravated assault, endangerment, and violation of safety standards. Far West appealed, contending that Weidman and Noll were not high-managerial agents whose actions could be attributed to the corporation, and that, in any event, Weidman and Noll did not possess the requisite mens rea for the charged crimes.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Weisberg, J.)

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