$1,470,000 – NJ Crane Operator’s Death

Attorneys for the family of a New Jersey man electrocuted in 1987 when a highway construction crane came in contact with an uninsulated 7,200-volt power line, have announced that a $1,475,000 settlement was finalized on Feb. 6 with the multiple defendants involved.

Plaintiff Erma Cronce of Neptune, New Jersey, reached the agreement in the Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court suit with defendants Jersey Central Power & Light (Jersey Central), Grove Manufacturing Co. (Grove), T.C. Lloyd Co. (Lloyd), the New Jersey Highway Authority and Department of Transportation, George Harms Construction Co. (Harms), Parsons-Brickerhoff Construction Services, Inc. (Parsons) and Road Machinery.

All defendants were involved in the February 1987 incident in which Cronce’s husband was electrocuted at age 42. Harold C. Cronce, a truck driver, was assisting a crane operator in loading a crane boom section onto a flatbed trailer when the crane contacted a power line running above the work storage area near Tinton Falls, NJ. Just 10 days before the accident, the line had been relocated by subcontractor Lloyd under a contract with and at the direction of Jersey Central, general contractor Harms, and project engineer Parsons. The line, according to the record, could have been buried, relocated, de-energized, or marked with high visibility cones to make it more conspicuous, but no such safety measures were taken.

The record indicated that Jersey Central, Lloyd, Harms, Parsons, and the two-state agencies were in violation of a number of state and federal safety regulations, including OSHA, the state’s High Voltage Proximity Act, and the National Electric Safety Code. Numerous job site safety inspections were never completed.

Grove, the maker of the crane, was sued on product liability grounds alleging the crane’s defective design excluded an insulated link that would have prevented the flow of electricity to Cronce. Such a feature, said the suit, was a necessity given the approximate 2,300 crane-related electrocutions recorded in the United States annually. Grove settled for an undisclosed amount, and Road Machinery, the seller of the crane, contributed $50,000 to the settlement. Jersey Central and Lloyd paid $475,000, as together did New Jersey and Harms, and, individually, Parsons.

Plaintiff attorney Robert Mongeluzzi said Common Pleas Court Judge Charles P. Mirarchi of Philadelphia rejected defense efforts to remove the case to New Jersey because Grove and Road Machinery are Pennsylvania corporations.

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