A jury found a Scarborough roofing contractor not guilty in the death of a worker after three hours of deliberation Thursday.

Shawn Purvis, of Purvis Home Improvement, was charged criminally after his half-brother fell to his death three years ago on a Portland job site. Purvis faced one count of workplace manslaughter, a Class C felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The judge dismissed a second count of manslaughter, a more serious charge, on the last day of the trial, which began Dec. 1.

Purvis wept after the verdict was read.

Alan Loignon, 30, of Biddeford, fell Dec. 13, 2018, while working on a job Purvis had booked at a home on Munjoy Hill with a steeply pitched third-story roof . He was not wearing a safety harness, and died later that day at Maine Medical Center.

Securing a conviction hinged on whether the jury was persuaded by prosecutors’ arguments that Loignon was an employee, not an independent contractor. Deliberation began at 1 p.m., after attorneys finalized a list of more than 100 exhibits.

After the verdict, Purvis said he felt vindicated, and demanded accountability for the prosecutors who had indicted him on the more serious manslaughter charge. His attorney said Thursday that the judge had dropped that charge because there was not enough evidence to support it.


“How is there no accountability? How are DAs given such authority?” Purvis said outside the Cumberland County Unified Court in Portland. “I’ve been prosecuted in the media for the last two years, all because this DA got it out for me.”

Prosecutors alleged that Purvis for years knowingly violated safety standards of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which requires employers to provide safety measures, either with railings or harnesses, for workers performing jobs 6 feet up or higher.

Defense attorney Tom Hallett speaks during closing arguments in the trial of Shawn Purvis on Thursday. To the left is a photograph the defense displayed of Purvis, at right in the photo, and roofer Alan Loignon, his half-brother, who died in the fall. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Purvis said his workers are subcontractors who are free to choose whether to follow safety standards with equipment he provides.

“I provide everything, and I encourage everything to be OSHA approved,” Purvis said. “These men are self-employed. I cannot make them, just the way OSHA cannot make them.”

His attorney, Tom Hallett, said there was no question in his mind that the federal government wanted to make an example of his client.

“It’s not every day that the federal government teams up with the state government to land on someone as hard as they landed on Shawn Purvis, and the fact that Shawn Purvis was able to fight back and beat ’em both is a pretty remarkable result.”



The workplace manslaughter charge is rarely utilized. The first known prosecution, in 1991, occurred in York County, when a grand jury indicted a New Hampshire contracting firm in connection with the death of a 23-year-old man who was crushed in 1989 while crews were overhauling the Route 1 bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery, The Associated Press reported.

This prior case ended with an acquittal, said Leanne Robbin, the lead prosecutor and financial crimes division chief for the Office of the Attorney General.

Robbin said in closing arguments Thursday that it did not matter that Purvis told others that his workers were independent contractors and gave them 1099 forms instead of W2s at tax time.

He controlled the job sites, provided materials and tools and, according to the law, met the functional definition of an employer, so he should be held responsible, Robbin told jurors. Purvis paid his workers daily in cash not because they were contractors but because cash is untraceable and tax-free, and he destroyed the only ledger listing the amounts actually disbursed, she said.

“He wanted nothing to disrupt his crew’s ability to complete a roof a day or in the number of days he bid for the job,” Robbin said. “He put profits over people. He put profits over following OSHA guidelines intended to protect his crew.”


After the verdict, Robbin said she respected the jury for navigating a complex statutory and regulatory scheme, but she was worried about the case setting a poor example.

“We are concerned that Purvis and other employers will take the verdict as license to continue to violate fall protection and other safety standards,” Robbin said in a statement. “Our office remains committed to working with OSHA to enforce the workplace manslaughter statute when employers like Purvis expose their employees to unsafe conditions in the workplace.”

Purvis and his attorneys contended from the start that all the workers on his jobs, including Loignon, were independent contractors who could not be forced to take safety measures. Workers provided their own hand tools and performed skilled labor that Purvis did not direct or control, Purvis and his attorneys said.


Purvis did not work on roofs himself but functioned as a salesman who secured roofing deals with property owners that his subcontractors – the actual roofers – then chose to complete, Hallett said during closing arguments. It was up to his crew members to decide if they wanted to do a particular job or walk away. Purvis paid them by the day, not by the job or by the hour, Hallett said. It was a collaboration between Purvis and the men he paid, but they were not employees, he said.

Hallett characterized the crew, and roofers in general, as “rooftop cowboys” who work a tough job and do not like following the rules. He spoke of the government trying to interfere with the lives of independent Mainers.


Workers from Purvis Home Improvement were back on the job at a home on Munjoy Hill in Portland the day after Alan Loignon died in a fall there in December 2018. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“This case is a case where OSHA doesn’t have that control,” Hallett said in his opening arguments. “They’re trying to dictate how this group of independent Mainers operates. They don’t have that right.”

When Purvis was cited in the past by OSHA inspectors for safety violations, he insisted at every turn that they were independent contractors, and said he was following IRS guidelines for how to classify his workers, Hallett said.

“OSHA, in effect, wants to corral a bunch of rooftop cowboys,” Hallett said Thursday. “We don’t take exception to the fact that OSHA is a massive, massive agency that’s trying to protect workers. That’s a good thing. But it’s not good when they step into the lives of ordinary people and try to force square pegs into round holes.”

Hallett also pointed to testimony from other workers who said Loignon had smoked a concentrated form of marijuana known as dabs immediately before his fall and lost consciousness as a result of the large dose of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

“Alan smoked dabs, got dizzy and suffered syncope,” Hallett said. “It’s another word for passing out. It’s not something that lasts when you smoke dabs, but it happens. He made a tragic error of judgment.”

Purvis could still face $2 million in fines for alleged OSHA violations, but a ruling in that case by an administrative law court judge is not expected for months.

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