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U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylva

This was a case brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act and Pennsylvania law against the United States and two of its mine safety inspectors, after the plaintiff suffered electric shock injuries during a surprise quarry inspection. The plaintiff alleged that his injuries resulted from negligence on the part of the mine inspectors in directing him to perform a dangerous activity at an electrical fuse box. The two individual mine inspectors were voluntarily dismissed from the case prior to trial, and the United States remained in the case on a vicarious liability theory after the United States agreed that the inspectors were acting within the scope of their authority. The defendant argued that the accident was caused by the plaintiff’s own carelessness.

The plaintiff was employed as a foreman at a slate quarry in Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, on August 23, ________, when two inspectors from the U.S. Mine Safety Health Administration arrived for a surprise safety inspection. The plaintiff contended that he requested that the inspection be postponed due to rain, but the inspectors refused.

The plaintiff claimed that, when one of the inspectors discovered that there was an unplugged knockout hole at the bottom of one of the fuse boxes in the powerhouse, the inspector instructed the plaintiff to place a knockout plug in the empty hole. A knockout plug is a removable piece of material that blocks an unused electrical orifice. When the knockout plug located by the plaintiff did not fit the hole, the plaintiff contended that the inspector bent the plug with a hammer and pliers, and told the plaintiff to try it again.

When the plaintiff attempted to place the manipulated knockout plug in the hole again, a short occurred in the ________-volt fuse box, creating electrical arching. The plaintiff asserted that the defendant’s employees were aware that the power to the fuse box had not been shut off, the plaintiff was unprotected and wet from the rain, and that the plug did not properly fit the knockout hole. The plaintiff argued that the inspectors negligently instructed the plaintiff to place the plug into the hole under the circumstances, thereby causing his injuries.

The plaintiff, age 48 at the time, was divorced with two children in college. He claimed that the electrical shock caused him to be thrown some 15 feet through the air. He was diagnosed with second degree electrical burns over 11 percent of his body, including his face, neck, arms, and hands. He underwent multiple surgeries and his physicians opined that an additional surgery will be required in the future. The plaintiff claimed $________ in past medical expenses, and contended that he has been left with a partial permanent disability from employment.The case was settled for $________ prior to trial.

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