A jury in Jackson County has awarded nearly $10 million to a man and his wife after a Florida manufacturer’s heat pump severely shocked him as he worked on the unit at his home. Donald Chapman received 480 volts when he came into contact with an exposed live wire on the heat pump in July 2008. The jolt threw Chapman from a ladder he had climbed to reach the heat pump. He landed on the corner of a table and then fell to the floor.
Nine jurors assigned 40 percent of the fault for the accident to Mr. Chapman and held FHP Manufacturing 60 percent at fault. In addition to the damages that the jury found that Mr. Chapman and his wife, Tammy, suffered, $4.5 million in punitive damages were also awarded. This made for a total verdict of $9.97 million in the case. Mr. Chapman’s injuries included “multiple rib fractures and a spleen laceration that required its surgical removal, as well as other damages.” While being treated, Mr. Chapman also contracted an infection. At 37 years of age, Mr. Chapman is basically disabled.
The electrical shock happened in part because Chapman had worked on the heat pump while it was still connected to the building’s power supply. It was contended at trial by the Plaintiffs that the company was also at fault, because a design change in the heat pump left the wire exposed. The Defendant had changed the original design, which had a cover over the electrical panel. In its statement for the media, FHP Manufacturing’s statement said the heat pump “was in fact sound, and had Mr. Chapman followed accepted service procedures relating to the heat pump, this situation would not have happened.”
Evidence at trial indicated that the work on the unit while it was still connected to the power supply was “sometimes necessary,” to “troubleshoot” a problem. Brian Timothy Meyers, a lawyer from Kansas City, Mo., represented the Plaintiffs and he did a very good job. The defendant, FHP Manufacturing Co., located in Tallahassee, Fla., plans to appeal the verdict.
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