Around the Nation, April 2012
Claims, risk, and litigation news from around the country.
Boeing Worker Seriously Injured
A man was seriously injured on the job at Boeing’s Everett production plant when he became trapped between a retractable flap and spoiler assembly on the wing of a 727 jumbo jet. It is not known how the accident happened. Boeing, the Machinists’ Union, and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries are all investigating. The accident comes just one month after another worker had his legs amputated after he was crushed beneath the wheel assembly of 747 Dreamliner while it was being towed to another facility.
Lax Safety at Mine
The Lucky Friday Mine in northern Idaho was not so lucky for seven workers when a rock burst broke one man’s pelvis and injured six others. A federal inspection report shows that officials at the mine overlooked the second of two required daily monitoring checks. The report is part of hundreds of inspection documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review, a Washington-based newspaper. In November 2011, the Mine Safety and Health Administration demanded twice-daily monitoring after a rock burst registered as a 2.8-magnitude quake on seismographs. There were no injuries in that burst. A second rock burst was reported in December, this time with injuries. In early January, federal inspectors closed the primary shaft, citing safety concerns.
Municipal Drivers Accident-Prone
Police, park employees, prosecutors, and library workers have racked up nearly $16 million in damages paid to residents and city vehicle repairs over the past five years, reported the Houston Chronicle. Of the 3,553 accidents involving the Houston police force, 1,490 were found to be the fault of the officer, according to city records obtained by the newspaper. The Houston Police Department has 84 officers with four or more at-fault accidents. From 2007 to 2011, the city’s legal department received 2,866 claims for damages caused by city vehicles.
Employers Given Opt-Out Choice
The Oklahoma legislature has passed two leadership bills that would allow employers to opt-out of the state’s workers’ compensation system. Businesses can exempt themselves by creating an alternative coverage plan that meets several requirements, such as complying with ERISA and paying for medical, permanent bodily injury, impairment, disability, and death benefits. “One of the frustrations businesses find is that Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation court system continues to be the only option for businesses to use. The current system is an adversarial process pitting employer vs. employee and holds businesses hostage to the whims of workers’ comp judges,” said State Chamber President Fred Morgan. “This legislation would simply give employers in Oklahoma another coverage option that will help rein in costs all while protecting the injured worker.” The new legislation is intended to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2012.
Va. Tech Negligent in Shootings
A jury found Virginia Tech negligent for delaying a warning to students about a gunman on campus on April 16, 2007. The campus massacre that left 33 dead is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The shooting of two students in an isolated area of a dorm that morning was thought initially to be domestic violence and perpetrated by a jealous boyfriend. Tech police elected to wait until the parents could be notified and sent out an alert two and half hours later. It did not include the fact that the gunman was at large. About 10 minutes after shooting began in a classroom building, the next warning went out—this one alerted students that a gunman was loose on campus.
The jury deliberated for three and a half hours and awarded $4 million each to the families of two students who were killed. The wrongful-death lawsuit argued that lives could have been saved had school officials acted more quickly to alert the campus after the first shooting. The state immediately filed a motion to reduce the award to comply with state law that requires the award to be capped at $100,000.
GPS Evidence Used in Arson Case
A federal judge is deciding whether or not to toss out evidence against Jose Baez, who faces four counts of arson for fires at several locations, including an auto body shop, a dental office, a store, and a home. Baez has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer claims that the government’s case is tainted by the fact that there was no warrant for a GPS tracking device placed on Baez’s car. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in an affidavit that the agency didn’t seek a warrant for the device “in light of the law as it was then understood and interpreted by the courts, and the advice of counsel,” according to the Associated Press. Federal prosecutors said in a recent filing that there is enough evidence to convict without the information gathered by the GPS. Baez is thought to have retaliated against businesses for monetary disputes as little as a $138.
Mysterious Shaking Explained?
In the eastern Wisconsin city of Clintonville, residents reported late-night loud booms for several days that sounded like thunder but were unexplained. The U.S. Geological Survey found that a minor earthquake—1.5 magnitude—had struck the town of about 4,600 people located about 40 miles west of Green Bay. Clintonville City Administrator Lisa Kuss said USGS representatives described the event as a swarm of several small earthquakes in a very short time. “In other places in the U.S., a 1.5 earthquake would not be felt,” she said. “But the type of rock Wisconsin has transmits seismic energy very well.” Despite the findings, several people remain skeptical that the cause was an earthquake. One expert is reported to have said that the cause could have been groundwater movement or thermal expansion of underground pipes.
Man Nails Hand to Roof
A Florida roofer required special handling when he accidentally shot himself in the hand with a nail gun. The nail went through a finger on his left hand and into the wood of the roof on which he was working. He was unable to free himself, so a call was made to 911. Paramedics determined that the pitch of the roof and a 30-foot drop made it too difficult to get the man down safely, so they called fire and rescue for additional help. The Technical Rescue Team cut away the roof around the man’s hand with a handheld power saw to free him safely. He was transported to the hospital for treatment with the roof decking still attached.
Bevrlee J. Lips is managing editor of Claims Management magazine, a publication of the CLM. She can be reached at email@example.com.