Crown Holdings sued for not turning off electricity

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Aug. 14, 2007, 10:00am

Marshall, Texas-Crown Holdings, formerly known as Crown Cork & Seal Company, is sued for not de-energizing a 480 volt electrical box.

Plaintiffs' Gregory Black, an electrical contractor employed by Winningham Electric Company and Tracy Hester, a general contractor employed by Hosea Project Movers, Inc. were hired to work during the closing of Crown Holding's Abilene bottling facility. Crown is the leader in metal packaging technology and provides 1 out of every 3 U.S. canning products.

Although contractually obligated to shut off the power, Crown decided not to turn off the power. According to the suit filed, Crown intentionally left the power on to avoid rebooting its computers and to avoid paying shut off costs.

"Turning off the power before connecting live power lines is the most critical safety related 'operative detail' of electrical work."

Tracy was working on a Bobcat loader when Crown supervisor instructed him to "go help Greg pull and cut electrical cables." Tracy was not informed the electricity to the electrical box remained on.

On Sunday, August 6, 2006, an explosion occurred while the plaintiffs were working on the electrical box causing severe injuries. Greg suffered third degree burns and died a week after the explosion.

Although Tracy survived, he was also severely burned, which has caused permanent limiting injuries.

The complaint states the plaintiffs injuries were a result of Crown's decision to leave the power on. Crown did not provide Tracy or Greg with safety devices or warnings regarding the decision to leave the power on while the plaintiffs worked on the charged electrical box. The plaintiffs were forced to work without breaks and in a 105 degree Fahrenheit building.

The suit seeks actual and punitive damages for plaintiffs including, physical pain and suffering, mental and emotion pain, lost earnings, disfigurement, physical impairment, medical expenses, loss of consortium, loss of household services, future medical problems, and loss of companionship, inconvenience and enjoyment of life.

Crown is not a newcomer to lawsuits. Thousands of asbestos lawsuits have been filed against Crown for its 1960's three-month association with an insulation company.

By 2004, Crown had spent more than $350 million in asbestos related payments. Texas governor Rick Perry called Crown a great example of the success of the 2003 Texas lawsuit reform measures.

Perry stated, "Crown Cork and Seal are one of the reasons why I worked with the Texas Legislature to enact major lawsuit abuse reforms that capped asbestos related liability for employers who had been over-penalized because of another company's mistakes."

Crown Holdings has not yet responded to the complaint, which was filed on August 6.

Plaintiffs are represented by John Graves of Kilgore, Texas. Judge Ward will preside.

Case No.: 2:07cv00328

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