Work Injury Lawsuit Settled

The Flynn Law Firm an Atlanta work comp lawyer and work injury law firm, is pleased to announce a settlement on behalf of two injured workers burned in a boiler explosion in Mississippi. Jonah Flynn, along with attorneys from Fitts Zehl in Houston, Texas, represented David and Darren Clark.

Supervisors at a facility owned by International Paper Co. (IP) completed annual maintenance on a recovery boiler and restarted it without clearing workers from the area. Instead of turning on the boiler’s fans to purge excess combustible gas, the supervisors decided to use “natural draft” conditions–allowing the gas to naturally rise to the top and exit the boiler. The boiler exploded, injuring several workers.

Brothers David and Darren Clark, 29 and 27, respectively, worked for an industrial insulator subcontractor at the International Paper Vicksburg, Miss. facility and were injured in the explosion. David sustained second- and third-degree burns to his hands, arms, face, and torso. His lungs were also injured due to sustained inhalation of steam, and he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Darren also suffered second and third-degree burns to his arms, face, and hands.

Both men are permanently disabled. The Clark Brothers, who had each been earning approximately $40,000 annually, incurred about $1.45 million in lost income each.
The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration cited IP for a willful violation for not developing safety procedures for boiler startup when the primary boiler is offline. It also issued a serious violation for failing to have a procedure determining an adequate amount of odorant to be added to the gas so that workers could smell the gas as it built up.

In their lawsuit, the Clark brothers alleged IP failed to adopt a procedure to bring the boiler online without steam supplying the fans, failed to adequately train its operators on the procedure, failed to use computerized measurements to monitor the situation inside the boiler, and should have evacuated all employees before startup. The plaintiffs also alleged International Paper bypassed the computer software system designed to detect unsafe operating conditions, which would have automatically shut down the boiler and prevented the explosion.

IP contended recovery boilers are routinely brought online using natural draft without injury.

IP reached confidential settlements with the Clark brothers. An accommodation was reached on the workers’ compensation liens.

Citation: Clark v. Intl. Paper Co., No. 5:09-cv-0008 (S.D. Miss).

Plaintiff experts: Michael Pratt, cause and origin, Charlotte, North Carolina; Dianne Korn, boiler operations, Gulfport, Mississippi; Douglas Carpenter, combustion engineering, Columbia, Maryland; Dr. Joseph Gonzales, life-care planning, San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Thomas Mayor, economics, Houston, Texas.

Jonah Flynn is a Georgia work injury and Atlanta Workers Compensation lawyer representing injured workers in third-party claims for work injuries. Often, other lawyers and injured workers call Jonah Flynn when it appears that the only remedy for a Georgia work injury or Atlanta workers compensation claim is via the workers comp system. A third-party lawsuit can yield far more, in terms of recovery, than a traditional work comp claim. If you have any questions about your rights after being injured at work, and whether you may pursue a claim against someone other than your employer, call the Flynn Law Firm today.

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