Our client was burned over 96 percent of his body and died 18 hours later, while at work at a Philadelphia steam plant.
Mobile Dredging & Pumping Co. agreed to pay $3.55 million to settle this lawsuit.
Our client was employed by Trigen Energy Corp., which operated a steam distribution network consisting of 33 miles of buried pipe, distributing steam to customers in Center City Philadelphia and western portions of the city.
Trigen operates two main plants, on Christian Street and Grays Ferry Avenue, and maintains a third plant on Edison Street as a backup for those plants and for use during peak production in the winter. The accident occurred when Mobile was hired to dislodge ash from a “hopper” in the Edison plant.
The steam at the Edison plant is generated by burning fuel oil in four huge boilers – a process that produces ash as residue. Each boiler has two hoppers used for collecting ash. Ordinarily, the ash is removed by vacuuming on a daily basis, but the Edison plant’s hoppers had become clogged.
Our client discovered that the opening to the hopper was packed solid with ash, and therefore had to be cleaned manually.
Mobile was hired to perform the manual cleaning, a job it had performed for Trigen on numerous occasions in the past. Relying on advice from Mobile employees our client began removing the ash with a plastic hose.
But because portions of the ash were still hot, the plastic hose melted and the two men were suddenly in a large cloud of ash that escaped from the hopper.
Seconds later, embers from within the hopped jumped out into the cloud and a fireball erupted.
Anthony J. Baratta argued that Mobile was to blame for the accident because the company was extremely experienced in the vacuuming of ash from hoppers and was well aware that the primary danger in vacuuming ash was that it might be hot. The use of a plastic hose is acceptable only if the ash is completely cool, but if the ash is hot, it is absolutely necessary to use a metal hose to vacuum it because a plastic hose will melt. Mobile was quite knowledgeable that ash could appear cold on the surface but be boiling hot below the surface.
Our client suffered unimaginable pain for the long hours before he mercifully died. He was so extensively burned that the paramedics were unable to place an IV line to introduce pain medication into his body.
Result: The case settled for $3,550,000.
Attorney for client: Anthony J. Baratta