Last fall, a 20-year-old worker fell 30 feet through the roof of Glencliff High School in South Nashville, Tenn., and died from his injuries. Now, his family in Central America has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Nashville Metro Government, the school system, the construction companies involved, and an insurance company.

In a 20-page lawsuit filed at the beginning of June in Davidson County Circuit Court, the family of Denis Geovani Ba Ché, a laborer originally from Guatemala, accused the city and school district of gross negligence and detailed what led up to the young man’s death.

“To think that Denis had moved to Nashville just less than a month before his death, he had left his home in rural Guatemala to come to the States, hoping to make money that he could send home to his family,” Kerry Dietz, one of the attorneys representing the family, told WKRN-TV.

According to reports, investigators with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration were called to the school on Oct. 12, 2023, following the incident, to determine the circumstances that led to his death.

The lawsuit alleges that ‘Metro,’ an everyday reference for Nashville’s city government, and Metro Nashville Public Schools, “neglected,” “underfunded,” and “cut corners to save money” on the project. Dietz explained that the roof Denis was working on had far more damage than the crew knew.

A picture of Glencliff High School in South Nashville, Tenn.“Denis, his fellow workers, and the people he was working for were not permitted inside of Glencliff High School before they were sent up on the roof to do this work, and so there was no opportunity to conduct a full inspection, which would have plainly showed these again, open obvious hazards,” Dietz explained. 

“It was obvious from inside, but when you were up on top of the roof, it wasn’t obvious, and that’s how Denis ended up falling through a hole that he didn’t even know was there and didn’t know needed to be avoided,” the plaintiff’s attorney added.

The lawsuit described the roof as having “years of water damage.” Ba Che fell through the roof, hitting air ducts and piping on his way down until he hit the gym floor, where he died.

The family also alleges the young man was sent onto the roof without a harness or training despite federal regulations mandating fall arrest equipment and the company's “knowledge of hazardous conditions.” 

The complaint names the municipality, the school district, the primary contractor, Eskola, subcontractor Jr. Roofing & Construction and Builders Mutual Insurance Company as defendants.

The TOSHA report detailed the scope of work, including entirely replacing the high school's original 1956 roof. According to two employees with Metro Nashville Public Schools Facilities & Maintenance department, the gymnasium was originally constructed with tectum decking, 3-inch polyisocyanurate insulation, and a thin layer of 60-mil polyvinyl chloride membrane. 

The rest of the school had either metal or concrete decking. In 1977, the gymnasium was expanded to include metal decked edges on three sides, and the ISO and PVC membrane layers were replaced. According to the report, the ISO and PVC layers were again replaced in 2001.  

TOSHA stated that the roofing company’s safety manager, supervisor, and company owner “usually inspect the roof before work begins.” However, they were not allowed inside the building for the inspection, and according to TOSHA, the general contractor said “the roof was safe,” and the supervisor received no additional information. 

Jr. Roofing & Construction was subsequently cited with two violations, one of which was deemed "serious," and involved the employer’s failure to determine whether the surface “on which its employees were to work” had the structural integrity to carry the load. That violation included a $5,400 fine.

“When you have a worker like Denis, it’s important that they’re trained fully, completely, and in a way that they understand,” Dietz, the plaintiff’s attorney, said. “Sometimes that requires translation, whatever it takes; at a minimum, Denis needed to know that he was putting himself in a dangerous situation and how to keep an eye out for the types of dangers like the one that he faced that led to his death.”

Roofing Contractor sought comment from Nashville’s city government, the school district and the subcontractor, but calls went unreturned.