After working out the details of a
workers' compensation lien with Judge Sandra Mazer Moss yesterday
in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, attorneys finalized a
settlement that secures $9 million for an employee of a contractor
who suffered electric shock when the loader he was operating came
into contact with uninsulated power lines.
Eight entities were listed as defendants in
the case, but plaintiffs lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi of .Saltz
Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky said yesterday that he has not
been informed of any allocation of liability among them.
"It has not been disclosed to me," Mongeluzzi
said. "And... we do not need to know."
Mongeluzzi said the $9 million resolution was
among the two or three highest for a personal injury case in
Pennsylvania history. In a premediation memo, he asked for $40
million. He said the defendants initial offer going into mediation
in December was $6.5 million, and that his client found the $9
million offer acceptable if and only if a workers' compensation
lien of $750,000 were to be withdrawn.
It was agreed in Moss' court yesterday that
the lien would be waived, in exchange
for the defendants providing $100,000 to die
workers' compensation carrier for the plaintiff's former
Thus, the deal will cost the coalition of
eight defendants $9.1 million, and allow a total recovery - from
workers' comp as well as the lawsuit - of $9.75 million for the
The agreement was announced six weeks after a
two-day mediation session with Perry Bechde, Mongeluzzi said.
The plaintiff, Daniel Eife, now 37, was
operating a loader with a bard-wired remote to unload sheetrock on
a Philadelphia street in April 1995. In order to do so, he had to
maneuver the loader's boom between power lines maintained by PECO
According to Mongeluzzi, Eife had been trained
to maneuver the loader's boom to within several inches of the power
Mongeluzzi said that standards published by
the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration prohibit
operation of a boom within 10 feet of power lines. But Eife's
training was not consistent with that standard.
"Like 70 percent of the American public,
Daniel Eife believed that the power lines were insulated,"
Mongeluzzi said yesterday. '"And he did what he had been taught and
trained to do."
While Eife was operating the loader, the boom
contacted a power line, delivering a severe shock to Eife, who
eyewitnesses said had flames shooting out of his arms, chest and
His injuries were catastrophic, Mongeluzzi
said, with his body taking third degree burns on the extremities.
Both arms had to be amputated below the elbow, and his left leg is
without feeling and non-functioning.
Eife requires the use of prosthetic lower arms
with hooks for hands, and cannot walk for more than 15 to 20 feet
without using a wheelchair.
The major defendants in the case, Mongeluzzi
said, included PECO Energy, whose power lines Eife's loader
contacted, and several other entities:
Telford 55 Enterprises, the successor company
to the one which sold die loader to the George Kempf Company,
Blount Inc., the successor company to the
manufacturer and designer of the equipment involved in Eife's
Mecha-Draulics Inc., which assembled, sold and
repaired the hard-wired electric remote controls for the
Christies Auto Repair Lie, which participated
in die maintenance, repair and service of die hard-wired remote
Blount's loaders with hard-wired control,
Mongeluzzi said, were a seven-year "experiment" with dreadful
results, and were abandoned after a national record of numerous
fatalities and crippling injuries.
Mongeluzzi said it was foreseeable that
Blount's loaders would come into contact with power lines in urban
and suburban settings, and that the design left the loader
operators vulnerable to electric shock.
Reroutitting of the remote control had a high
failure rate, but that did not dissuade Mecha-Draulics from
attempting to fix the control on the loader used by Kempf,
Still, even after the design with hard-wired
remote control was banned, die Kempf Company continued to maintain
and repair the Blount loaders and send them out for use by their
Mongeluzzi lauded his clients - Eife and his
spouse - for the role they played in the settlement.
"This is really a testament to Dan and Denise
Eife," Mongeluzzi said. "Dan was catastrophically injured, and he
conducted himself in such a way that uniformly every defendant
admired and respected him