Our client, a 36 year old master electrician, sustained an electroshock injury which caused brain injury that impaired his memory and concentration. His injury occurred while he was performing repairs on an electrically-powered hot food holding table at a local fast food restaurant. We determined easily that the lack of a ground wire had caused the client’s injury. The key issues in the case were how the table came to lack a ground wire and how long the ground wire had been missing.
The only potential case would exist against the manufacturer for the failure to equip the holding table with a ground wire. Nevertheless, we were unsure whether the manufacturer was culpable. The defendants, the manufacturer and the owner insisted that we would never be able to determine why the holding table lacked a ground wire. In support of their contention, they noted that the table had been in use for over 6 years and that numerous electrical companies and even some employees had performed repairs on the table during that period.
Before we visited the factory to determine whether there were design or assembly flaws, we learned that another fast food restaurant owned a similar hot food table made by the same manufacturer. We obtained permission to inspect the similar table and learned that the wiring scheme was significantly different than on our holding table. This indicated that the manufacturer was deviating from industry standards, which mandate uniform wiring schemes to assure reliable and safe wiring.
We arranged for trip to the defendant manufacturer’s plant so that we could gain more information about the manufacturer’s design and assembly of holding tables. At the plant we learned:
- The plant did not use electricians to wire hot food holding tables;
- The quality control station that inspected the holding tables before shipment did not conduct any testing to ensure that this equipment was properly grounded;
- The quality control director had no formal training in quality control, and his previous job had been as a cook at a truck stop;
The defendant plant manager, at our request, produced a copy of the blueprint for the subject hot food table’s original wiring scheme. The wiring scheme was of acceptable quality except for one matter – it lacked a ground wire.
We learned the locations of three companion tables manufactured in the same batch as our table, all of which were out-of-state. We were allowed to inspect these tables and learned that two of the three also lacked ground wires.
The case settled at mediation for $900,000.