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Cook County, Illinois

The 27-year-old construction worker died of apparent electrocution while operating a water cooled coring drill at a construction site. The decedent’s estate brought suit against the college which owned the property, the general contractor which was performing the work, and the sprinkler company for which the work was being performed.

On August 25, ________, the decedent was employed by a specialty construction company which was hired to drill holes in certain concrete walls to facilitate the installation of a sprinkler system for the college. The plaintiff was operating a water cooled wall mounted coring drill at the time of his death.

Witnesses reported hearing the decedent scream before he collapsed. After his death, the drill was being dismounted by other workers and it was discovered that there was a fray in the electrical cord, exposing the wire.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendants failed to maintain a safe workplace resulting in the decedent’s electrocution death.

The plaintiff also alleged that the defendants failed to provide ground fault circuit interruption protection at the construction site where the decedent was working, which if it had been in place, would have prevented the decedent’s death from the exposed electrical wire.

The defendant general contractor disputed plaintiff’s contentions and argued that the decedent died of coronary artery disease, and not as a result of any negligence on the part of this defendant.

The defendants maintained that the fray in the electrical cord occurred after the decedent had died as inexperienced workers attempted to remove the drill from the wall. The defendants further contended that they were not legally required to monitor the work performed by the decedent and were under no obligation to provide the decedent with ground fault circuit interruption protection.

The defendants obtained an exemplar coring drill and mounted it to a piece of wood. During opening statements, counsel for the general contractor demonstrated to the jury how the cord could become frayed, exposing the hot wire while it was being dismounted. In fact, defense counsel frayed the wire in several spots right in front of the jury. This supported the defendants’ contentions that the frayed wire on the drill used by the decedent happened after his death and was unrelated.

The defendants presented the coroner who performed the autopsy on the decedent. He testified that the cause of death was coronary artery disease and not electrical shock. Additionally, the p 7 3 defendants introduced slides of the decedent’s coronary arteries from samples taken at the time of the autopsy to demonstrate the extent of the coronary artery disease suffered by this 27-year- old. However, the plaintiff presented a pathology expert who was a coworker of the defense expert and who testified that the decedent died of electrocution, contrary to her associate’s autopsy findings.

After a week-long trial, the jury, which consisted of eight women and three men, determined that the defendants were not responsible for the decedent’s death.

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