Contractors Burned on Worksite Settle Lawsuit

The plaintiffs were third-party contractors called into an industrial plant to help repair faulty equipment. These contractors were not employed by the plant. While they were working, a fault in a piece of industrial equipment occurred and they were called to investigate the cause. While awaiting supervisory assistance, an explosion occurred and both the plaintiffs were badly burned.

Plaintiff One was the crew chief. He was standing inside the protective metal railing surrounding the equipment when the explosion occurred. He was engulfed in a 30' ball of fire. While burning, he was able to crawl through the protective railing several feet from the equipment where another member of his crew put the fire out with a fire extinguisher. By that time the fire had burned through his clothing. He had blistered and charred skin over most of his body. He was assisted out of the plant where he remained conscious until he was sedated during ambulance transport to the hospital.

Plaintiff Two was assisting Plaintiff One at the time of the explosion and was standing approximately 15' outside the protective railing. The fireball engulfed him as well and burned him from head to toe. His fire was put out by another crewmember and he also remained conscious until placed in the ambulance for transport.

Plaintiffs' claims against the defendants industrial plant were not preempted by the workers' compensation exclusive remedy provision. Manufacturing performed at the defendants' facility involved processing industrial material. The plaintiffs' alleged that the defendants failed to follow certain safety precautions related to the handling of industrial dust and those shortcomings that led to the explosion that injured them.

The defendants argued that the plaintiffs' employer was cited by NCOSHA four times related to shortcomings in safety training and protective equipment. The defendants had never been cited by NCOSHA. The defendants destroyed the industrial equipment that exploded in this incident and claimed it was under no duty to keep the equipment after it had been inspected by NCOSHA, the manufacturer and other investigators.

The alleged injuries Plaintiff One suffered include second- and third-degree burn injuries over 68% of his body. Plaintiff Two sustained second- and third-degree burns over 45% of his body. Both plaintiffs survived, but required extensive skin grafts and numerous rehabilitative surgeries. Plaintiff One was determined to be fully disabled and Plaintiff Two was able to resume employment. The plaintiffs' economic damages were covered by workers' compensation and there were substantial liens at the time of the settlement.

The settlement of $8,694,846 was broken down between both plaintiffs:

  • Plaintiff One recieved $5,000,000 for loss of consortium, plus a waiver of the workers' compensation carrier of its $934,151 lien.
  • $2,000,000 was given to Plaintiff Two, plus a waiver by the workers' compensation carrier of $760,695 lien. 
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