A bail hearing Monday for a Saco roofing contractor foreshadowed the issues that could be central to a trial over his alleged role in a worker’s fatal fall last year.

Shawn D. Purvis, the 44-year-old owner of Purvis Home Improvement in Scarborough, is charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of workplace manslaughter in the death of 30-year-old Alan Loignon.

Loignon fell from the third-story roof of a Munjoy Hill home on Dec. 13, 2018, and died at Maine Medical Center a short time later. He was not wearing a safety harness.

Purvis pleaded not guilty in May and has been free on personal recognizance bail. But one of his bail conditions is to send a weekly report to the Maine Attorney General’s Office about his job sites and the names of any workers present. His defense attorney has been fighting that condition as unconstitutional, while the prosecutors filed a motion last month to revoke bail because they said Purvis was not fulfilling all the requirements or taking the reports seriously.

As an example, they pointed to the roofer’s handwritten report for the second week of July, which said, “Have no work scheduled,” followed by an offensive phrase.

A judge did not revoke bail or issue any decisive rulings during Monday’s hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse. But he also warned Purvis that he needed to take the reports more seriously for now, and he said he would consider other conditions proposed by the state.

“I am of the view that there is a difference between setting up reasonable bail conditions impending trial from final determinations of whether he is an employer or not,” Superior Court Justice Thomas Warren said.

Monday’s arguments were a preview of what both sides might present at trial. A key question will be whether Purvis was considered an employer under the law and whether that makes him responsible for a worker’s death.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said Purvis should be considered an employer because he is the person who coordinates jobs and provides equipment for the workers on the job sites. She also said the bail conditions, including the required weekly reports, are necessary to protect the workers who still go to job sites with Purvis. She also asked the judge to order Purvis to get workers’ compensation coverage and to follow federal safety standards.

“This is a fiction that these guys are independent contractors,” Robbin said. “He is the employer. He is bringing in these guys for the day. He is showing them the job. He is putting them up on the roof with his ladders and his staging, and he is providing all the materials, and all the changes have to go through him. So we are requesting that this court impose these safety rules because it’s going to be a while until trial, and until then, we’ve got people potentially falling off roofs.”

Defense attorney Tom Hallett said the workers are independent contractors who can choose their jobs and work for other people, and Purvis has no control over whether they choose to wear the safety equipment he provides. Hallett blamed Loignon for his own fall, suggesting he was impaired by marijuana that day. He also said the required reports are a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination.

“It is really irresponsible that criminal charges were brought given the facts of this case,” Hallett said after the hearing.

Warren said he did not expect to order Purvis to get workers’ compensation coverage because the state Workers’ Compensation Board is also investigating that issue. But he said he would call the parties back in coming weeks with a decision on the other arguments.

“I’m not trying to express a view on the merits,” Warren said. “It seems to me you’ve put in enough to suggest that the state has some hurdles here that they’re going to have to meet and surpass in order to convict Mr. Purvis of anything beyond a reasonable doubt. But I think the protective conditions can be imposed without making any kind of final or even precedential determination.”

The case is likely only the second time prosecutors in Maine have sought charges under the workplace manslaughter statute, which is a subsection of manslaughter and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The previous incident happened in 1991 in York County. If Purvis is convicted on the manslaughter charge, a Class A felony, he faces as much as 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

He is also facing nearly $1.8 million in fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to protect workers from falls.

Related Headlines


Comments are not available on this story.