Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Tysons Settles Wrongful Death Suit

This is an interesting story, as well as another confined space tragedy.
A wrongful death suit filed by the families of two Tyson Foods Inc. workers who suffocated at the company's rendering plant four years ago has been settled in federal court.

The families of the late James Dame Jr. of Slaughters and the late Michael Hallum of Madisonville settled their case against Tyson about a month ago.

The terms of the confidential settlement were sealed by the judge's order at the families' request.

Dame, who was 40, died July 22, 1999, after being overcome by fumes while trying to retrieve a forklift bucket that had fallen into a gas-filled pit at Tyson's River Valley Animal Feeds rendering plant near Robards.

Hallum, 24, perished trying to rescue his co-worker from the pit....

The families sought compensation for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses and loss of future earnings. Additionally, Dame's family sought $20 million in punitive damages.
Now I'm glad Tysons was forced to pay for these workplace killings, but I don't understand how they got around the "exclusive remedy" of Workers Compensation which generally prohibits workers or their families from suing their employers. Any attorneys out there who can explain this?

Oh, and one more thing. I'm awarding the "Sensitivity Award" to Tyson Attorney David Sarvadi (who in a previous life was also one of the leading anti-ergo extremists):
"This is a very sad occasion, a very tragic accident," David Sarvadi, a Tyson attorney, told the hearing officer, Thomas J. Hellman, in his opening remarks last November.

But, Sarvadi said, "The employees did not follow rules that had been established. They did not follow their training."
Got what they deserved, I guess.