Category Archives: Death

Former President of Chemical Company Sentenced for Federal Crimes Related to Employee Deaths

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Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from ehstoday.com. Mr. Jon Gelman is a respected colleague who focuses on workers’ compensation in New Jersey.

As the post points out, it is unusual, but not unheard of, for an employer to be charged and sentenced for Occupational Safety and Health Act violations. In fact, in 2012, I wrote about a situation that happened at a Nebraska grain elevator that caused a worker’s death and resulted in a misdemeanor charge, including a $100,000 fine and 2 years of probation for the employer.

The article below is important for a number of reasons. First, two truck drivers, Joey Sutter and Charles Sittig, died as a result of chemical exposure to hydrogen sulfide through their work. Next, the company’s former president, Matthew Lawrence Bowman, was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison and also fined $5,000, according to the article. As president of his company, Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) of Port Arthur, Texas, Bowman even directed some of the violations. And these actions were “criminally negligent,” according to John M. Bales, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

Although no amount of prison time or fines can bring the drivers back to their loved ones, it is good to see someone being held at least a little bit accountable for the dangers of this company’s practices.

Matthew Lawrence Bowman, the former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) finally had his (sentencing) day in court. Bowman pleaded guilty on May 9 to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). It is rare for individuals to be prosecuted and sentenced to violations of the OSH Act.Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas resulting in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all wastewater shipments from PACES after received loads containing hydrogen sulfide. He was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison on Oct. 28 by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. Bowman was also ordered to pay fines in the amount of $5,000.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher called the sentence “a just punishment” for Bowman’s actions, which placed workers “at unacceptable risk and had fatal consequences.”

“The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who violate the laws enacted to ensure the safety of workers handling hazardous materials and to prevent the kind of tragedies that…

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Why Tylenol Isn’t Always as Safe as People Think

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Acetaminophen, known to most of us as Tylenol, is one of the most commonly used drugs for pain. The vast majority of our injured clients take this drug at one stage or another of their treatment and recovery. A recently published investigative report from ProPublica explores just how dangerous this drug is. Everyone who uses this drug would benefit from reading this report

Tylenol is an extremely common drug, but it can be more dangerous than you think, so please both read carefully and follow the directions on the bottle, especially if you’re giving it to a baby or child or if you’re an adult who drinks alcohol, even occasionally. 

The article is lengthy and disturbing because it talks about the makers of Tylenol minimizing the deaths and liver damage of people who took the product. However, ProPublica has done a comprehensive job of including a lot of information and several graphics caught my eye, including “How the Liver Processes Acetaminophen” and “How Much Acetaminophen Are You Taking?”  

The report’s “Major Takeaways” are below, and I hope they make you want to read more of the report. I would urge you to be sure with any drug, even over-the-counter ones, to always read the label, follow the directions, and ask a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Major Takeaways (excerpt from the report)

1 About 150 Americans die a year by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, federal data from the CDC shows.

2 Acetaminophen has a narrow safety margin: the dose that helps is close to the dose that can cause serious harm, according to the FDA.

3 The FDA has long been aware of studies showing the risks of acetaminophen. So has the maker of Tylenol, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

4 Over more than 30 years, the FDA has delayed or failed to adopt measures designed to reduce deaths and injuries from acetaminophen. The agency began a comprehensive review to set safety rules for acetaminophen in the 1970s, but still has not finished.

5 McNeil, the maker of Tylenol, has taken steps to protect consumers. But over more than three decades, the company has repeatedly opposed safety warnings, dosage restrictions and other measures meant to safeguard users of the drug.

Workers’ Comp System Not Exclusive for Neb. Case

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Lind v. Benes Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc.

Firm founder Rod Rehm won a major victory for workplace safety in Nebraska yesterday. The longstanding exclusive remedy rule for work-related injury and death cases was limited.

Lancaster County District Court Judge Steven Burns issued a ruling allowing the parents of Neil Cary, a young man killed in a workplace accident outside of Lincoln, to let a jury determine whether the negligence of their son’s employer caused his death. To a non-lawyer, this decision may not sound like news, but this ruling is big news. Historically, the exclusive remedy for injured workers and their families is to sue for limited damages through the separate workers’ compensation court system. So until this ruling, workers’ heirs couldn’t sue a negligent employer for full damages from a work-related death.

Cary’s parents didn’t receive any workers’ compensation benefits for the loss of their son. Workers’ compensation death benefits only pay money for loss of income to survivors who were dependents of the worker. If a parent is not financially dependent on the child, which is usually the case, a parent is not entitled to receive compensation under Nebraska’s workers’ compensation law. Accordingly, burial expenses and end-of-life medical care were the only benefits paid on Cary’s behalf.

The trial court judge ruled that since Cary’s parents were not entitled to any workers’ compensation, he would allow them to seek damages directly from their son’s employer. The judge ruled that workers’ compensation was not the exclusive remedy for these parents. This ruling will allow parents to recover fair compensation from employers who don’t provide a safe workplace.

Highlights From Nebraska’s 102nd Legislative Session

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Nebraska State CapitolClients of Rehm, Bennett & Moore helped make a positive difference this legislative session. They are parents who lose their children as a result of work injuries.

Albert and Diane DeLeon of Grand Island persuaded their state Sen. Mike Gloor to introduce a bill that was signed into law that increased the funeral benefit from $6,000 to $10,000. This was after they lost their son Emilio in a construction accident. In addition, Gene Cary testified in favor of a similar bill that would have raised the funeral benefit for the families of dead workers as well as giving a $25,000 death benefit to parents who have had a child killed in a work accident. Gene’s son Neil was killed in a work accident in 2010. The bill awarding an automatic death benefit to parents who have their child killed in a work accident failed to advance out of committee. Bills held in committee are killed for this session of the legislature and must be re-introduced next session. However, the combined stories of Cary and the DeLeons helped to advance the cause of parents who lose a child in a work accident.

Besides the bill increasing funeral benefits for parents who lose their children in work accidents, the only other bill to pass that affected injured workers was a bill that gave employers protections for information given in employment references.

Besides the bill increasing funeral benefits for parents who lose their children in work accidents, the only other bill to pass that affected injured workers was a bill that gave employers protections for information given in employment references. As the bill was originally introduced by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont, the bill would have given employers almost free reign to Continue reading

Spouse Dies From A Work Accident Or Occupational Disease?

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If a worker dies from a work accident or occupational disease, his surviving family members are entitled to death benefits under Nebraska workers’ compensation.

However, proving the death was work-related is sometimes complicated in situations where there is not a clear accident. For example, there are no death benefits for a worker who dies at work from natural causes simply because he died at work. Instead, it must be shown that work or something that happened at work somehow played a role in the death.

In situations that

If your spouse dies due to a work-related injury or illness, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

are not necessarily clear, especially when the insurance company tries to blame the death on some other reason or on natural causes, you will probably want to get a lawyer to help establish how the work or work exposure caused the death of your loved one. If you are able to show that the work contributed to the death, the worker’s family may be entitled to the following benefits:

Benefits for the surviving spouse:
If it can be established that work caused the death, the worker’s surviving spouse is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits every week at 2/3 of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of death. This potentially lasts for the spouse’s life or until remarriage. If the spouse later remarries, then he/she is entitled to a lump sum payment for two years of benefits.

Benefits for surviving spouse with children:
If the deceased worker had dependent children and a spouse at the time of death, the surviving spouse is entitled to 60% of the worker’s average weekly wage plus 15% for each child. If the children don’t live with the surviving spouse, the spouse is entitled to 55% of the average weekly wage.

Benefits for dependent children:
If the worker is survived by dependent children, work comp benefits are paid to those children (in equal share) for their dependency or until age 19 (or age 25 if full-time student or the child is physically or mentally incapable of self-support).

Benefits for other family members:
There may also be benefits available for parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and grandchildren if it can be shown that they were dependents of the deceased worker. If dependency can be established, these types of dependents would be entitled to 25%.

Funeral Expenses:
The employer is responsible for funeral and burial expenses up to $6,000 whether or not the deceased worker had a spouse or any dependents. This was recently raised to $10,000 by the Nebraska Legislature in 2012.