Corboy & Demetrio Obtains $3.2 Million against Commonwealth Edison in Electrocution of Worker

Corboy & Demetrio has secured a settlement of $3.2 million on behalf of the Estate of Javier Valadez, a painter who was electrocuted from contact with overhead distribution lines while working on a painting project under the U.S. 20 Bridge at theFox River in Elgin, Illinois.

On June 11, 2008, Valadez, 31, was riding in an aerial lift bucketto sandblast the underside of the bridge when his operator, John Maroulis, contacted high voltage wires.  Corboy & Demetrioattorney Edward G. Willer represented the Estate.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Leonor Valadez, as administrator of her husband’s estate, alleging negligence byCommonwealth Edison in not making the electrical lines safe by either de-energizing or sleeving them. Hertz Equipment Rental Company was sued as the lessor of the lift as it failed to familiarize the lift users with safety devices as required byAmerican National Standards Institute (ANSI).   The defendantsclaimed the lines were open and obvious and that the crew had a last-minute warning to stay clear of the lines from Valadez’semployer, Eagle Painting & Maintenance Co., minutes before being electrocuted.

In early June, Eagle Paint employees telephoned the customer service representatives of Commonwealth Edison and had askedthem repeatedly to make the overhead distribution lines safe. In early communications with an employee, Edison claimed that it did not have an order for the “make safe” request and did not know where the lines were.   And at one other time, an Edison customer service representative indicated that Eagle Paint’sorder had been “fulfilled.”

“Contrary to this statement, depositions of at least six customer service representatives revealed that no two of them knew the stringent Commonwealth Edison procedures on how to process a‘work made safe’ request,” Willer said.

“Significantly, two days prior to the occurrence, one of Edison’s safety personnel was at this job site and saw the Eagle Paint lift basket,” Willer added.  

According to two other Edison workers on site at that time, the “light went on” in the Edison safety director’s mind, meaning that he now realized where Eagle Paint wanted to do its work, according to Willer, who also said that evidence showed that notwithstanding this knowledge, Edison failed to directly contact Eagle Paint and tell them not to work there as the lines were still energized.

Eagle Paint, Valadez’ employer, was sued as a third-party defendant. Its acting foreman on site testified that the two men in the basket were warned within minutes to stay away from the overhead lines.

In addition to his spouse, Mr. Valdez left behind two children,now 12 and 9.  The only liquidated damages were for the estate’s funeral expenses.

Edison paid $3.2M of the settlement; Hertz Equipment Rental Company, the lessor of the aerial lift, paid $25,000; and Eagle Paint agreed to waive its lien of $243,000 and continue worker’s compensation benefits to Dec. 31, 2013. The case was mediated and resolved before mediator Stuart A. Nudelman of ADR on Aug. 9, 2013.

Case # 08L7199, Leonor Valadez v. Commonwealth Edison Company and Hertz Equip. Rental Corp., Cook Co. Circuit Court, Law Division.  A dismissal order was entered by Judge William E. Gomolinski on Sept. 23, 2013.

The defendants were represented by John W. Bell and Charles Rantis of Johnson & Bell for Edison; Gerald Cleary of Pappas Cleary O’Connor & Fildes, P.C. for Hertz Equipment Rental Corp.; and Thomas P. Boylan and Erik L. Andersen of Cassiday Schade, LLP for Eagle Painting and Maintenance Co.