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Jury rulings stand in U.S. Steel carbon monoxide poisoning case

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A jury’s determinations in a case brought by a contractor who suffered severe carbon monoxide poisoning working at the U.S. Steel plant in Gary were affirmed Wednesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Roberto Hernandez appealed the jury’s determination that U.S. Steel was 15 percent to blame in his poisoning and therefore was ordered to pay $698,668 of total damages of more than $4.65 million. The court also rejected as moot a cross-appeal from worker’s compensation carrier Zurich North America.

In Robert Fechtman, as Guardian of the Estate of Roberto Hernandez v. United States Steel Corporation, Zurich North America, 45A04-1209-CT-474, Hernandez argued that the trial court erred by declining to provide a tendered jury instruction regarding strict liability for the conduct of an abnormally dangerous activity.

Hernadez was injured when he was working in an area where a dust-catcher from a blast furnace was emptied, releasing a large amount of carbon monoxide. The court noted that U.S. Steel followed its safety procedures, including repeated notice over the public address system announcing the dust catcher was about to be dumped.

Hernandez’s contract employer, Roger & Sons, is a nonparty to this suit, and the jury found it 80 percent liable for Hernandez’s injuries, and Hernandez 5 percent liable.

“Viewing all of these factors in conjunction, it is clear that there is a certain degree of risk involved in dumping the dust catcher, and the harm that results from carbon monoxide exposure can be great. But through the exercise of reasonable care, the risk can be minimized if not wholly eliminated,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the panel.

“Indeed, were it not for the negligence of Hernandez’s employer, who was found to be eighty percent at fault for Hernandez’s injuries, he would not have been, unbeknownst to U.S. Steel, in an area where he could have been exposed to the gas when the dust catcher was dumped.”




 
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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