Our firm has settled a wrongful death case that had been set for trial in an Alabama state court for January 5th. The case arose out of the electrocution of a wife and mother at a family-run business. The victim was electrocuted when she touched part of a feed line which consisted of a feed hopper and auger enclosed in a long metal tube. She had no way of knowing that the feed line had been energized because of a short in an electrical switch at the feed hopper which was located on the line. The Defendants in the case were: Chore-Time Brock (CTB), which designed, manufactured and sold the chicken feeder system; Farm Systems, Inc., which is the dealer for CTB; Latco, which sub-contracted with CTB for the construction of the chicken houses and the feeder installation; and Phillips Electric, which sub-contracted with Latco and wired the feeder system. CTB was the general contractor for the construction of the chicken houses including the installation of the feeder system.
There was a switch known as a 2912 manufactured by CTB on the hopper that was involved in this incident. The 2912 shorted out, thereby energizing the system. Unfortunately for the victim this switch was not grounded. When the victim touched the hopper line she became the ground and a sufficient amount of electricity passed through her body to kill her. The incident occurred early in the morning and the victim wasn’t found until her two children came home from school and found her lying across the line. Both children had “zone of danger” claims against the Defendants.
Our experts found the feeder system to be defective and unreasonably dangerous, both in the form of design as well as installation. There were numerous violations of the National Electrical Code in the installation. The system should never have been designed to allow 220 volts to travel through the type of switch chosen by CTB. Our design expert found there were relay type switches used by other manufacturers which would have minimized the potential for the switch to burn out in the first place. With that alternative design, if a switch were to fail, the voltage would be very low and thus not dangerous. In addition, the system should have been designed to be grounded. Selling a 14550 switch with a clipped ground wire and an interchangeable switch that requires a ground without adequate warnings was also a factor in the claim against CTB.
The trial judge ordered the case to mediation before Phil Adams, a lawyer from Opelika. All claims were settled a few days after a full day of mediation was completed. Greg Allen and I from our firm and Shane Seaborn from the firm of Penn & Seaborn located in Clayton represented the family. The amount of the settlement is confidential at the request of the Defendants.
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