In November of 2017, our client’s 41-year-old father was working at a junkyard cutting parts off a pickup truck with a torch. As he worked that morning, gasoline vapors ignited and erupted into a blazing fire and an explosion so powerful that it shook nearby businesses. Still underneath the vehicle, our client’s father was engulfed in thick black smoke and intense flames as the large fire quickly spread to three vehicles and other equipment on the property. The evidence showed that he tried to crawl away from the fire but only made it about ten feet before he collapsed and lost his life. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) investigated this horrific incident and fined the junkyard in question more than $75,000 for eleven violations. The junkyard’s appeal of those citations was unsuccessful, and the penalties have been referred to debt collection.
When our client came to us, we ensured that the proper paperwork was filed to name her the Administrator of her father’s estate so that she could pursue a wrongful death and survivorship case against the junkyard. We also performed an extensive investigation of the incident, including obtaining all disclosable information from the OSHA investigation. To ensure our client and the decedent’s family got the fairest result possible, we prepared a lawsuit and filed it in the Henry County Common Pleas Court.
Our position in this case was that the cause of this catastrophic and deadly fire was the junkyard’s failure to take a number of necessary fire safety precautions. We retained a well-respected expert with extensive experience investigating incidents like this one to review the evidence and give his opinion regarding how this could have happened. After consulting with him and obtaining a report outlining what went wrong, we felt it was clear that the junkyard committed a number of grievous mistakes, and that our client’s father would not have died if the junkyard had simply followed long-held nationally recognized safety standards and procedures related to cutting torches in potentially flammable circumstances.
After forwarding the expert’s report and the OSHA report to defense counsel, the case settled for the $500,000 policy limits available under the junkyard’s liability insurance policy, with the proceeds from the settlement being divided between the decedent’s adult daughters, mother, and brothers. We hope that this settlement brings closure to his loved ones. What happened on that day in November 2017 was absolutely horrific and no one should ever have to endure what our client’s father did in on the day he died, While no amount of money can ever replace a family member or undo a terrible thing like this, what we hope this settlement can do is allow his loved ones some sense of closure and justice. Standing up for people who have been killed because of someone else’s failures allows us to send a message that we as a society will not tolerate the preventable loss of human life.