A Duke Energy Florida electrician’s apprentice, Christopher Lee Dasher, was testing and repairing electrical transformers at a substation in Reddick, Florida, when he was allegedly electrocuted by more than 10,000 volts, later dying from the injuries he sustained.
On October 15, 2014, Dasher allegedly used a circuit testing technique that allegedly bypassed safety protocols designed to protect workers from electrical currents. Duke Energy was allegedly aware of employees bypassing safety protocols during certain types of electrical testing procedures, but did not enforce its safety standards. Due to this practice, Duke Energy has a history of nonfatal injuries.
Generally, an employer such as Duke Energy would enjoy immunity from a lawsuit brought in tort for the wrongful death of an employee who suffered a death such as Dasher’s even though the employer was condoning a protocol that bypassed safety standards.
Nevertheless, under certain extreme circumstances the estate of a decedent who suffers such a blatantly irresponsible death due to the actions of its employer could be actionable in tort, pursuant to F.S. § 440.11, Exclusiveness of liability, subparagraph (1) (b). Pursuant to this statute, if the estate of such a decedent can prove both the employer’s intentionally dangerous protocol, as well as the employee’s ignorance to the risk, an action could possibly be maintained.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) inspected the energy giant after learning of Dasher’s injury. OSHA found Duke Energy to be responsible for one willful and five serious safety violations, incurring penalties totaling $90,000.
A willful citation was issued to Duke for failure to have a qualified observer present during testing. This type of violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries in Florida accounted for 218 of the 4,405 fatal injuries reported nationally in 2013.
For further discussion on the topic of potentially obtaining damages in tort despite Florida’s Worker’s Compensation Immunity, or any other serious legal topic, please contact the experienced attorneys at the Schulman Law Group at (954) 349-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org