Two Philadelphia attorneys have secured a $10.34
million settlement for a Lehigh County electrician who suffered
second- and third-degree burns during an electrical explosion at
Lucent Technologies' Allentown plant.
The settlement between Lucent and plaintiffs Donald and Anita
Miller was reached late Friday, after the case was transferred from
Philadelphia to Lehigh County. Eunice Trevor of Brigham &
Trevor, who represented the Millers with co-counsel Martin Brigham,
said the settlement is believed to be one of the largest personal
injury settlements in Lehigh County history.
Terry and Gloria Reenock, additional plaintiffs in Miller v.
Lucent Technologies Inc., are slated to receive $665,000 from
Lucent for Terry Reenock's injuries, a Brigham & Trevor news
release indicates. Both settlements are in addition to earlier
confidential recoveries secured against another defendant, the
plaintiffs' attorneys said.
According to the plaintiffs' settlement memorandum, the events
giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in December 1999 when Donald
Miller and Terry Reenock, both journeyman electricians, were
working for Lucent contractor Orlando Diefenderfer Electrical
The men were assigned to remove and replace a piece of equipment
within Lucent's K-I switchgear cabinet, the memorandum states.
Brigham said a switchgear cabinet is a box measuring approximately
4 feet by 10 feet by 6 feet that contains a switch used to control
the destination of electricity running through a cable that comes
up through the floor of the cabinet.
The plaintiffs' settlement memorandum indicates that the K-I
cabinet was at Lucent's Substation K in Allentown. The substations
distribute electrical power throughout the company's plant, the
court document states, with each substation supplied by two feeder
cables, both with 12,470 volts running through it.
The feeder cables, the memorandum states, fed into two
transformers, K-I and K-2. One of the cables ran up through the
floor of the K-l switchgear cabinet. That cabinet also housed a
selector switch used to select the power source for the K-I
"Lucent reserved the responsibility to de-energize the
metal-enclosed K-I switchgear cabinet before the work began," the
plaintiffs claimed in their memorandum. The plaintiffs asserted in
the document that two Lucent electricians, in violation of the
company's policies, confirmed that an earlier shift had turned off
the electricity running through the feeder cable in the switchgear
cabinet and in fact tested the cabinet before certifying to the
Diefenderfer employees that it was safe to begin working.
But the Lucent electricians, the memorandum alleges, did not
warn the Diefenderfer team that "a second source of high voltage
electricity - the 12,470-volt 'M3' feeder cable - also fed into the
cabinet." It was this second cable that caused an arc explosion,
the plaintiffs contended.
An arc explosion, Brigham said, occurs when wires are separated
and electricity with sufficient energy to create an explosion
travels through the air. The settlement memorandum states that
Donald Miller was inside the cabinet when such an explosion
occurred and the electrical current passed through his body.
"The heat of the arc ignited Miller's clothing, worsening his
injuries," the court document states. "Miller suffered second and
third degree burns to more than 60 percent of his body in the
accident, requiring 54 rounds of reconstructive surgery. Mr.
Reenock, who stood just outside the cabinet when the accident
occurred, was burned by the thermal and radiant energy of the arc,
suffering second-degree bums to 20 percent of his body."
In their settlement memorandum, the plaintiffs asserted that
Lucent violated its own and industry safety standards on the day of
the accident. Among other allegations, the memorandum states that
had one switch been thrown, the electrical load would have been
transferred from the K-I switchgear cabinet to a companion
transformer, making the K-I cabinet safe for the Diefenderfer
According to Brigham, the defense argued that it was not
Lucent's, but rather Diefenderfer's, responsibility to make the
work area safe. But the attorney said it was videotaped depositions
of Lucent employees who indicated that electrical safety was, in
fact, Lucent's responsibility that proved a powerful bargaining
According to Brigham, the plaintiffs' attorneys used a video
settlement brochure to make their case during extensive pretrial
mediation. In addition to the videotaped depositions, the
electronics brochure included detailed computer animation of the
accident, Brigham said.
Brigham added that video settlement brochures are valuable tools
in cases of this magnitude. He pointed out that both sides on a
case are able to view not only witness testimony, but also
A statement from the Brigham & Trevor firm claimed that
Donald Miller's medical expenses totaled $1.4 million and that he
is currently disabled from his work as a journeyman electrician,
where he was earning $45,000 per year. Terry Reenock, according to
the firm's statement, incurred medical expenses of $55,000, with
wage losses of $23,000.
Defense counsel for Lucent included J. Brian Johnson of Duane
Morris in Allentown; M. Richard Merklinger of Hack Piro O'Day
Merklinger Wallace & McKenna in Florham Park, N.J.; John J.
Snyder of Rawle & Henderson in Philadelphia; and Arnd N. von
Waldow of Reed Smith in Pittsburgh.
A spokesman for Lucent declined to comment on the