Grain Explosion Accidents

Concerns over workplace safety continue to arise after an explosion last month at Union Mills Co-op in Indiana killed one person and injured two others. Although Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the possible causes of the explosion, records indicate the OSHA had never inspected the facility before the accident.

67-year-old employee James Swank was working on top of a tower when a large quantity of grain dust exploded and caused him to fall 175 feet to the ground. Grain dust is an incredibly volatile material, especially when sealed in a concrete silo, and can react to even a small spark according to Purdue University farm safety expert Steve Wettschurack.

The June 24 explosion occurred just days after a man in Veedersburg, Indiana suffocated in a grain bin. According to a recent report from Purdue University, suffocation is the most common cause of death at grain storage areas; 21 people died in 2010 after being sucked under the unstable grain. Explosions have also caused untold injury and death. In the past 35 years, OSHA reports more than 180 people have died and 675 have been injured in grain bin explosions.

Funds have dried up for OSHA, forcing a reduction in the number of inspections at grain facilities around the country to one every 99 years. The number has dropped for other workplaces as well–in 2010, there were 4,500 preventable workplace deaths. According to the website of The Benton Law Firm, the U.S. legal system states that any party or person that is responsible for the explosion may be due to pay compensation to cover any medical bills, lost wages, or other relevant costs. If you live in East Texas, your best option would be to contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Attorney today to learn more about your options.

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Judge’s Ruling Sends Message to Negligent WV Nursing Home

A judge recently upheld a 2011 ruling that requires West Virginia nursing home chain HCR ManorCare to pay more than $90 million in a wrongful death suit. HCR ManorCare, which owns the Heartland of Charleston nursing home, was found responsible for negligent treatment of resident Dorothy Douglas, who died in 2009 from dehydration complications.

Several months after the 2011 jury verdict was reached in Douglas’s case, Heartland of Charleston was implicated in a second wrongful death suit. In the second case, staff failed to treat resident Christina L. Frazier’s infections, leading to her premature death.

In Douglas’s case, Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. upheld the jury’s original verdict, which called for $11.5 million in compensatory damages for Douglas’s family and $80 million in punitive damages. According to the website of a personal injury lawyer, punitive damages are fines leveled against the defendant to stop future negligent behavior. If you’ve been fined thousands of dollars for doing something you shouldn’t have done, you’re less likely to do it again in the future. If you are financially impacted by the fine, that is.

Lawyers for HCR ManorCare argued in May that West Virginia’s medical malpractice laws, which call for a cap on damages, should apply to the wrongful death suit and limit the settlement to no more than $500,000. However, Judge Zakaib Jr. ruled that the state’s Nursing Home Care Act does not require such a cap, and the $90 million settlement is legal. HCR ManorCare attorneys have already expressed their desire to appeal the case to West Virginia’s supreme court.

In his April decision, Judge Zakaib Jr. expressed his view that HCR ManorCare’s attempts to maximize profit were reckless and negligent.

“This verdict sends a clear ‘deterrence’ message to a multi-billion dollar nursing home corporation that its misconduct will not be tolerated,” Zakaib Jr. said.

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