After working out the details of a workers’ compensation lien with Judge Sandra 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 plaintiff’s lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi & 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his client found the $9 million offer acceptable if and only if a workers’ compensation lien of $750,000 were to be withdrawn.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 employer.
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 plaintiff.
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 Energy.
According to Mongeluzzi, Eife had been trained to maneuver the loader’s boom to within several inches of the power lines.
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, 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 legs.
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, Eife’s employer.
Blount Inc., the successor company to the manufacturer and designer of the equipment involved in Eife’s accident.
Mecha-Draulics Inc., which assembled, sold, and repaired the hard-wired electric remote controls for the loader.
Christies Auto Repair Lie, which participated in die maintenance, repair, and service of die hard-wired remote controls.
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, Mongeluzzi said.
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 employees.
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