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Brain injury from electroshock ($900,000 settlement)

Client, a 36-year-old master electrician, accompanied by a co-employee electrician reported to a fast food restaurant to replace a heating element on a hot food holding table. As was their customary habit in performing this task, the electricians turned off the circuit breaker that supplied electricity to the table to cut off all electricity to it. After replacing the heating element, the assisting electrician returned the circuit breaker to the “on” position and the new heating element was also turned so that our client (the master electrician) could confirm that the heating element would work. When the heating element was activated, client, who was lying on his back because he had also checked the fuses of the hot food holding table, made contact with the table with his hand. Client, who would have avoided electroshock if he had been standing because his shoes would have grounded him, then received a substantial electroshock injury which impaired his concentration and memory.

Dempsey and Kingsland action

Examination of the hot food holding table by a Dempsey and Kingsland retained engineer determined that client’s electroshock injury occurred because the table did not have a ground wire. Because the table lacked a ground wire, any short in the table’s wiring caused the table case to become electrified. The challenge in this matter was to identify the party responsible for the absent ground wire. Investigation determined that many unknown electrical companies had serviced the table during the six years that it had been in use. In addition, we learned that employees of the fast food restaurant also had serviced the table. All of these parties theoretically could have removed a ground wire from the table. Our investigation yielded information that the table was manufactured in a batch of ten tables. Our investigation led us to discover the locations of the companion tables that were included in the batch. We determined that the tables in the batch lacked a uniform wiring scheme that would assure reliable and safe wiring. Additionally, we learned through depositions and through an inspection of the factory that the blueprint of the table did not include a ground wire. In addition, we learned that quality control at the factory did not test hot food holding tables for the presence of a ground wire (contrary to industry custom and practice enforce the tables were released for sale. We also learned that the factory quality control inspector immediately before coming to work for the defendant manufacturer had been a cook at a truck stop. Finally, we located another table from the batch that also did not have a ground wire.

The case settled for $900,000.