Court: Injured workers can't sue contractor for negligence

By Dave Collins, Associated Press

 

Two workers injured in a power plant explosion that killed six other people in 2010 cannot sue a contractor for negligence, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

In this Feb. 7, 2010 file photo, damage is visible at the Kleen Energy plant after an explosion in Middletown, Conn. Six people were killed in the blast. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, July 27, 2016, that two workers injured in the explosion cannot sue the contractor for negligence because they already had received workers' compensation benefits. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two workers injured in a power plant explosion that killed six other people in 2010 cannot sue a contractor for negligence, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Justices issued a 6-1 decision saying O&G Industries of Torrington is immune from the lawsuit under state law because the contractor bore the cost of workers' compensation benefits paid to the two employees, who worked for subcontractors. The ruling upheld a Superior Court judge's decision.

The Supreme Court rejected arguments by the workers, James Thompson and James McVay, that O&G Industries didn't actually bear the cost of the workers' compensation benefits. The workers claimed O&G Industries passed on the expense to subcontractors.

The explosion occurred during construction of the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown. Six workers were killed and about 50 others were injured.

Authorities said crews were using natural gas at high pressure to clean out pipes and something sparked an explosion. The state later banned the "gas blow" practice.

James Healy and Joel Faxon, lawyers for Thompson and McVay, wrote in the appeal to the Supreme Court that O&G was negligent because the gas blows were performed in an unventilated space with potential ignition sources including welding and heating.

They also wrote that a finding in favor of O&G Industries would essentially overturn a 1988 amendment to state law designed to protect workers by increasing requirements for lawsuit immunity.

Healy and Faxon didn't return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Federal regulators fined several companies more than $16 million for 371 safety and workplace violations, but those penalties were later greatly reduced in agreements the contractors reached with the federal government.

Killed in the explosion were Raymond Dobratz Jr., 58, of Old Saybrook; Peter C. Chepulis, 48, of Thomaston; Ronald Crabb, 42, of Colchester; Chris Walters, 48, of Florissant, Missouri; Roy Rushton, of Hamilton, Ontario; and Kenneth Haskell, 37, of New Durham, New Hampshire.

O&G Industries settled lawsuits by relatives of the dead workers for undisclosed sums.

Thompson suffered head, back, neck and leg injuries, according to the appeal. McVay had injuries to his head, neck, face, knee and ear, including hearing loss. They still feel the effects of their injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the appeal says.

As of October 2013, Thompson had received about $104,000 in workers' compensation benefits, and McVay had received about $6,500. They sought unspecified damages in the lawsuit.

 

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

Making DDoS Mitigation Part of Your Incident Response Plan: Critical Steps and Best Practices

Like a new virulent strain of flu, the impact of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is...

The Multi-Tax Challenge of Managing Excise Tax and Sales Tax

To be able to accurately calculate multiple tax types, companies must be prepared to continually ...

Operational Analytics in the Power Industry

Cloud computing, smart grids, and other technologies are changing transmission and distribution. ...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>

Archived Articles

PennEnergy Articles
2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

OGJ Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

OGFJ Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

Power Engineering Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

Power Engineering Intl Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

Utility Products Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

HydroWorld Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

COSPP Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013

ELP Articles
2011 | 2012 | 2013