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Family gets $17 million settlement for wrongful death

Accidents and tragedies can happen at a Pennsylvania worksite, particularly when the work involves construction. There can be numerous issues that lead to such an incident, including safety hazards. Sadly when these safety hazards happen a wrongful death can occur on the jobsite.

When this happens, one way for a family to respond is to file a lawsuit. This is what one Pennsylvania family decided to do after the loss of their husband and father in the summer of 2011. The 45-year-old man was installing electrical equipment on a jobsite. Above him dangled a 300-pound crane hook. Suddenly, the hook fell on him and instantly killed him.

His estate decided to file a lawsuit against the man's employer. The discovery process during the lawsuit revealed many safety issues. It appears that the company failed to inspect the crane hook and also repair it when it discovered some safety problems. As a result, the lawsuit claimed that the company was negligent in failing to maintain the hook to prevent what was a foreseeable accident. Ultimately, the case settled for $17 million -- one of the largest settlements in Philadelphia history for a wrongful death workplace case.

Settlements are an important tool in the legal process that help resolve lawsuits. In fact, most cases do not actually proceed to trial. They are resolved along with the way by pre-trial motions or settlements. Part of settlement requires hard work to uncover key facts that are favorable to the plaintiff. When that happens, a defendant may be more likely to settle, because the defendant may not want the case presented to a jury, who may award even more damages.

The basic principles of a settlement are straightforward: the plaintiff usually agrees to dismiss the case with prejudice and the defendant agrees to pay a certain amount of damages. "With prejudice" means that the plaintiff legally will not pursue the claim again. In other words, the matter is entirely resolved.

Reaching a settlement is not always easy, however, particularly in such wrongful death cases. This case nevertheless reminds employers that settlements are possible and that they should work to ensure the safety of equipment to prevent such accidents in the future.

Source: pennrecord.com, "Workplace wrongful death yields $17 million settlement, reportedly highest in Phila. History," Jon Campisi, Feb. 18, 2014

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