Lawyers in our firm have represented many employees hurt on the job because of the carelessness or reckless conduct of a third party. Typically, a worker hurt on the job is limited to recovering workers’ compensation benefits, which never fully compensate victims. Fortunately, the law allows a worker to also seek compensation from a third party if that party is responsible for the worker’s injury.
Our firm has also handled a number of boiler cases similar to the one in Boston. In one such case, Mike Andrews, one of our lawyers, handled a complex case for the widow and family of a man who was horribly burned and died as a result of a boiler explosion. Our client was employed at the Rock Tenn paper mill in Demopolis, Ala., and was sent to check the operation of one of the mill’s steam boilers. The subject boiler, roughly 30 feet square and 60 feet tall, was built and installed in the mid-1950s and had been in continuous operation for over 50 years.
Although the ASME boiler code specifies that tubing of steam power boilers must be inspected regularly, portions of the subject boiler tubing were encased in a concrete-like material known as a refractory. The boiler inspection company hired to perform the annual inspections was recognized as a leader in boiler technology. Instead of performing a thorough inspection, the company only inspected those portions of the boiler that were readily accessible. The portions of the boiler in the refractory were never inspected.
Ultrasound and X-ray technology had been used by this company on other inspections, but on this boiler the company didn’t use either technology to inspect the portions of the boiler that were not readily accessible. As a result, dangerously thin sections of steam tubing encased within the refractory were never discovered. These thin sections failed, causing the boiler to violently rupture.
These events occurred as our client walked by the boiler. The force of the tube failure blew a hole in the steel outer casing of the boiler and spewed superheated steam directly onto our client. Somehow, he managed to get to the mill control room before he was transported to the local emergency room and then to the burn trauma unit at South Alabama in Mobile. Despite world class burn care, our client died from his burns. After extensive case preparation which included multiple depositions of experts in metallurgy, boiler operation, inspection techniques and burn care, this case settled a week before we were set to select a jury.
We were blessed to represent his family and recover money for his death. Under the workers’ compensation laws, the family would have received a minimal amount for his death. However, because a third party was careless and contributed to his death, the family was able to recover reasonable compensation. This widow and family were concerned for others. They did not want someone else to die or be seriously injured because of a company’s failure to inspect a dangerous boiler. Fortunately, because of the courage of this widow, who had suffered a tremendous personal loss, the case helped to bring about needed changes in the industry. If you need more information, contact Mike Andrews, a lawyer in our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Andrews@beasleyallen.com.
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