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Family of electrocuted Chicago man receives $3.2M from ComEd

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has settled a wrongful death lawsuit involving a worker who was electrocuted while painting a bridge in the northwest Chicago suburb of Elgin. The utility company has agreed to pay $3.2 to the family of the man, who worked for Eagle Paint.

The man's family sued two other companies involved in the bridge painting project, and reached settlements with them as well. The 31-year-old man, who is survived by two children as well as his wife, had worked Eagle Paint for just a week. His employer will waive its $243,000 lien on the man's worker's compensation benefits, and continue those benefits through the end of this year. Hertz Equipment Rental, which leased the lift the man was working on, is paying his family $25,000.

According to the lawsuit, the painter was killed while on a lift bucket en route to sandblast the bottom of the U.S. 20 Bridge, which spans the Fox River. Another worker was also killed. The painter was electrocuted by the distribution lines.

The suit accuses ComEd of failing to take the appropriate steps to deactivate the lines, or to warn the crew working on the bridge about the open lines until it was too late. ComEd says that the painting company called to ask them to deactivate the lines for the project, but did not give them adequate notice. The utility company says that it requires at least a 14-day notice to shut off power lines, but they were notified of the project and the necessary power shut down less than two weeks before the tragic accident occurred.

Although it seems like many jobs in the construction, maintenance, and repair industries are inherently risky, employers owe their workers as many safeguards as they can put in place. No one should have to accept the fact that they are risking their safety or their life to earn a living. When appropriate and perfectly reasonable steps are not taken to protect worker safety, companies can and should be held responsible.

Source:  Chicago Sun-Times, "$3M settlement reached over death of electrocuted worker" Jordan Owen, Sep. 25, 2013

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