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Chicago area widow sues after husband is crushed to death

Being crushed to death by an industrial trash compactor is a particularly hideous way to die. However, that's what happened to a Palatine man last July. Now his widow is suing the condominium association and property management group for the couple's 110-unit complex where the horrific accident occurred. According to the wrongful death suit, the victim "suffered innumerable crushing injuries" that killed him. His widow is also seeking damages for pain and suffering.

The plaintiff says that a member of the condo association board gave her husband the keys for the complex's Dumpster without warning him of the "extreme danger" posed by the compactor connected to it. She also holds the association liable for not having warning signs on the door to the room where the Dumpster was located or on the compactor itself.

According to the suit filed in Cook County, the victim ended up in this situation because he lost his cellphone and believed he had mistakenly put it in the garbage. That garbage had been sent down a chute in the couple's four-story complex into the Dumpster, which was located in the basement of their building.

The man's widow says her husband asked a board member for the keys to access the Dumpster, and the board member gave those to him. According to the suit, the board member said he was expecting a call, but told the man he could search for the phone on his own. However, according to the suit, the man did not warn the victim that the Dumpster contained an "electronic eye" or sensor that detects when a certain amount of trash had accumulated and activated a "hydraulic ram" to crush it. It was not reported whether the board member knew the victim was legally blind.

The suit says that the victim climbed a ladder next to the compactor to look for his garbage bag and somehow fell into the "unguarded loading hopper." His body allegedly activated the compactor, and there was no way for him to turn it off. The suit also notes that there were no "foot or hand rungs or pegs" that would have let him climb out.

This is one of those instances when civil litigation can do much more than relieve some of the financial burden of someone suffering the loss of a spouse. It can also potentially bring about increased safeguards that can save lives.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Widow Sues for Her Husband's Horrible Death in a Dumpster" Jack Bouboushian, Feb. 13, 2014

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