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Mechanic’s burn injuries settled for $2.9 million

The tech support expert said he didn’t expect the aircraft mechanic he was advising to use 100 percent isopropyl alcohol to wash out a jet engine, but he admitted that he did not make himself clear when he gave the advice.

The subsequent explosion left another mechanic with second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body. This summer, the injured mechanic agreed to a $2.9 million award in a pre-trial settlement of workplace injury claims against his co-workers and the aircraft manufacturer who employed the tech support expert.

Plaintiff’s attorney John Jensen said the case shows the benefits of exploring third-party claims in situations involving catastrophically injured workers.

“When I first reviewed the case, I was shocked by the actions of the co-workers in blindly following advice that was so clearly dangerous to everyone involved in the maintenance procedure; as such, I was confident that we could prove that their actions would fit the definition of ‘willful, wanton and reckless negligence’,” Jensen said in a statement.

He said he relied on case law established in Pleasant v. Johnson in crafting claims against the co-workers. The insurance carrier for the co-workers paid more than 80 percent of the settlement. Jensen said the Pleasant claims served as the primary argument in persuading the insurance carrier to waive $633,650 of its workers comp lien.

The plaintiff was 40 years old and had been in his job as an aircraft mechanic for about four months at the time of the accident. He and two senior co-workers were working on a corporate jet when one of his supervisors called the airplane manufacturer’s technical support line for advice.

It was after 9 p.m., and the manufacturer’s director of customer support took the call while at a hotel tiki bar in West Palm Beach, Fla. The technical director told the crew chief to perform an alcohol wash of the engine while it was running. The crew chief said the director told him to pour the alcohol into the engine from a bucket, an assertion the technical director denied.

The crew chief brought an open, five-gallon bucket of 100 percent isopropyl alcohol to the plane. Another crew chief in the cockpit was set to motor the engine before the crew chief on the wing poured the alcohol in. The crew chief in the cockpit had been told to pull the circuit breaker for the igniter, but he decided not to, because he thought as long as he didn’t move the throttle handle, the igniters would not operate within the engine. He was wrong.

The crew chief and the mechanic stood on the wing as the crew chief poured the alcohol into the motoring engine. A ball of flame shot out of the engine and hit the plaintiff. He jumped off the wing as the crew chief dropped the bucket of alcohol. Fire engulfed him.

The plaintiff was in the hospital for three months. He was out of work for a year and could no longer work as an aircraft mechanic. He returned to work as a customer support representative, but he was let go and returned to school to train as a medical equipment repair technician.

 

SETTLEMENT REPORT

WORKPLACE INJURY

Injuries alleged: Second- and third-degree burns on 40 percent of body

Name of mediator: Wayne Huckel

Date of pre-trial settlement: July 2012

Amount: $3 million (payment of $2.4 million and lien waiver of $633,650)

Attorney for plaintiff: John Jensen, Jensen Law Group (Chapel Hill)

Has the plaintiff been successful in collecting the judgment? Yes


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