Conagra Ordered to Pay $180m to Burned Silo Workers

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Thursday, June 7, 2012

One of the titans of the U.S. agricultural industry says it was not responsible for the severe burn injuries suffered by three of its contract workers in a 2010 grain elevator explosion, even after the jury in the men’s personal injury suit found the week of June 1 that the company’s negligence led to the incident. The jury ordered ConAgra and a subcontractor to pay the men $180 million in damages, which includes punitive damages.

The damages are on top of workers’ compensation paid to at least one of the men. They were working to clean a grain elevator in Illinois, about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, on April 27, 2010, when the grain exploded, causing a huge fireball.

The workers all suffered severe burns. One of the men was burned over more than 70 percent of his body, leaving him unable to work outdoors. Another man’s lungs were scarred by fumes. He had to take a lower-paying job that his health allowed him to do. The third man was also severely burned.

During trial, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said that the explosion was the result of a fire that smoldered in the silo for weeks. But despite a suspicious odor and visible smoke, ConAgra management did not call the fire department or even warn the workers until shortly before the explosion, the attorneys said.

After 10 days of deliberation, the jury awarded the men a total of $180 million in compensation and punitive damages. In a statement, ConAgra denied that it put the men in harm’s way by ignoring warning signs that a disaster was imminent. The company said it would appeal the jury’s decision.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “3 burned in southern Illinois silo explosion awarded a total of $180 million,” Andy Grimm, June 5, 2012

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