Each year, hundreds of thousands of individuals are admitted to hospitals for burn injuries that occur in the home, workplace, or as the result of car accidents. This type of injury can be debilitating and require thousands of dollars in ongoing medical bills. If the injury was due to negligence, responsible parties can be held liable. In the past year, juries have awarded plaintiffs millions of dollars in compensation.
$1.6 Million Settlement Reached for Man Blinded From a Chemical Burn
Joseph Keith Jr., a Philadelphia man partially blinded when caustic chemicals splashed into his eye while cleaning at Hatfield Quality Meats, was awarded $1.6 million when a jury found his employers liable for his injuries.
According to an article in The Legal Intelligencer, Keith was 27 when he sustained the injury. According to the pretrial memo, Keith was wrapping a hose that he had been using to clean the facility with sodium and hydroxide when the tube struck him in the face, knocking off his protective glasses. The chemicals began to drip into his right eye, and even though he was able to wash the eye in a nearby sink, it took ten minutes before he could get to an eyewash station.
“The injuries from this splash would have been minimal and completely recoverable had Mr. Keith been able to access an eyewash station in a timely manner to irrigate his eye. However, defendant violated OSHA regulations and ANSI standards by failing to supply an eyewash station in the room where Mr. Keith was working.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two types of regulations for eyewash stations addressing emergency needs for a person who comes into contact with chemicals. The primary regulation is that an eyewash station is a general requirement for all businesses who handle harsh chemicals. These facilities are required to provide these stations as a form of first-aid. They must be located in an area that is well-lit, free from obstructions, and requires no more than ten seconds to reach. According to the memo documented in the article, “the nearest eyewash stations were 155 and 210 feet away. Unfortunately, there were additional factors such as obstructions and an eyewash station being locked in another room.”
Additionally, all eye/face wash stations must be inspected annually to make sure they meet ANSI Z358.1 requirements. OSHA officials visited the plant quarterly, but never cited Hatfield Quality Meats for the violations of the rules.
Rendered blind in one eye and deaf in one ear, Keith claimed he suffered economic loss including both his future medical care and earning potential. Initially hoping for a $234,000 lien, his case settled for $1.6 million.
Two Individuals Received a Combined $5 Million for Burn Injuries
Two men were awarded more than $5 million in a negligent acid-burn incident where doctors allegedly failed to treat their injuries properly.
In an article detailing the case, the plaintiffs' Antonio Crespo and Edward Torralvo were exposed to hydrofluoric acid while cleaning bricks at Torralvo's property back in 2011. The two men immediately sought treatment at the Temple University emergency room the following day where a burn specialist administered injections of lidocaine and calcium gluconate into the affected fingers. According to the court papers addressed in the article “the injection sites began to ooze and the digits turned a blue-and-black color," within days.
Crespo sought help at Cronzer-Chester Medical Center, where they treated him for gangrene and ultimately amputated parts of his fingers. Crespo's friend Torralvo required blood drainage and had parts of his skin removed. According to a surgical care expert opined on behalf of the two men's case, their hydrofluoric burns should have received different treatment.
Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is a human-made acid used in many domestic and industrial products such as cleaning agents, rust removers, and for manufacturing fertilizer and pesticides. Comparatively speaking, HF is weaker than other hydrogen halide acids, but concentrations greater than 20% can cause life-threatening burns. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, "if the diagnosis is missed or the treatment delayed, the consequences may be devastating for the patient." The case for Crespo and Torralvo was designed to prove the two men did not receive the proper initial treatment.
The original article detailing the case described treatment for burn injuries- requirements include: "administer opioids for the pain, and to massage a topical calcium gluconate gel into the affected areas. Injections ... are occasionally warranted, but should never be done directly into the digits, as it can increase swelling and can stop blood flow, which hinders the medicine’s ability to counteract the acid."
According to the pretrial memo, Crespo, a guitarist, said the amputation from the burns ended his career early. The verdict included $2 million to Crespo for past and future financial damages, $2.26 million for lost earnings, and $264,000 to be used towards future medical care. Torralvo's $500,000 was awarded for noneconomic damages.
Not every case has grounds for settlement, but if you or someone you love has recently received a burn injury, The Law Offices of Foster and Houston can give you a free evaluation. Contact us today by calling (877) 377-5411.
Bibliography and Source Info
“Jury Awards $1.8M To Man With Chemical Burns” 27 March 2016 The Legal Intelligencer <https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/almID/1202753237998/jury-awards-18m-to-man-with-chemical-burns/?back=law>
“Emergency Eyewash and Shower Stations ” Grainger <www.grainger.com/category/emergency-eye-wash-stations/emergency-eye-wash-and-shower-equipment/safety/ecatalog/N-14ue>
“Duo Wins for Negligent Acid-Burn Treatment” 26 February 2016 The Legal Intelligencer <https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/almID/1202750722325/duo-wins-for-negligent-acidburn-treatment/?back=law>
“A Review of Hydrofluoric Acid Burn Management” September 2014 National Center for Biotechnology Information <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116323/>