A settlement worth nearly $11 million was reached last week during the sixth day of trial in a wrongful death suit brought by the wife and estate of a steelworker who resided in Elsmere, Delaware. Anthony Fuhr, a 35-year old employee of International Mill Service, died 13 days after falling into a vat of boiling water and molten metal at the CitiSteel USA plant in Claymont because of a gap in a guardrail that had existed for more than a decade.
Attorneys Robert J. Mongeluzzi and Brian E. Fritz of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky filed the suit on behalf of Pamela Fuhr and the estate of Anthony Fuhr.
According to court papers, Fuhr was operating a “scarfing machine,” a device that uses a massive torch to remove imperfections from large slabs of steel. During the scarfing process, molten steel drops into a vat of water, creating a mix of molten metal and steaming water that fills the room with steam.
Mongeluzzi told the jury that Fuhr’s job required him to walk away from the machine 50 times each day to ensure that the slab was properly loaded onto a railroad car before starting the scarfing process on the next slab. Each time he left the machine, Fuhr needed to walk past a gap in the guardrail. On Valentine’s Day 2003, Fuhr fell into the 10 by 30-foot vat and suffered second and third degree burns over 97 percent of his body. Fuhr’s burns were so extensive that doctors were unable to administer intravenous pain medication. He died 13 days later.
SM&B argued that the accident could have been prevented if Envirosource Management Inc. (the subsidiary company managing safety issues at the plant), had properly assessed the risk in the workplace and insisted that the guardrail be extended. Mongeluzzi also contended that Envirosource knew it was violating safety regulations by not having the guardrail.
In the settlement, Envirosource’s insurer agreed to pay $10 million and to waive a workers’ compensation lien of $997,000.
The sad part of this tragedy was that it was a totally preventable accident. For a few hundred dollars for a guardrail, Anthony Fuhr would be alive today.
Robert J. Mongeluzzi
After Fuhr’s death, Envirosource ordered a guardrail to be installed along the catwalk where Fuhr’s fall occurred. The company also installed at other sites where International Mill Services (its parent) operates. Mongeluzzi said a guardrail was not in place originally because the company decided it would interfere with the operation of its machines.
Fuhr is survived by his wife, Pam Fuhr, their 3-year-old son, Anthony J. Fuhr, and a 12-year-old son, Nick, from a previous marriage.
“I’m glad it’s over,” said Ms. Fuhr, who added that she has suffered emotional and financial hardships since losing her husband. She said her husband’s death has been a strain on her youngest son, who sees classmates with their fathers and asks where his father is. Ms. Fuhr said she points to the sky and tells her son that his father is in heaven and that “Daddy is still in his heart.”
Fuhr’s family filed its lawsuit in Philadelphia, where the defendant company was once based.
To me it wasn’t about the money. I just want to make sure that no one loses their life or goes through it again.
Pam Fuhr, victim’s wife