A second jury verdict has been entered in a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of a Chicago construction site injury that occurred in 2006. The decedent, Charles Ingolia, had been assisting with renovations being made at a Chicago Brown Line El station located at 3360 N. Clark St. The 57 year-old was severely burned in an electrical explosion at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)’s substation and died of his injuries three days later. He was survived by his wife and four adult children.
A Chicago jury decided that negligence on behalf of Target Electric, Inc., the company overseeing the electrical components of the renovations, had contributed to Mr. Ingolia’s death and entered a jury verdict of $4.1 million in The Estate of Charles Ingolia v. Target Electric, Inc., 06 L 13106. A previous verdict of $6.3 million had been entered in a wrongful death case filed by Mr. Ingolia’s family against the CTA; Estate of Charles R. Ingolia v. CTA, et al., 06 L 013106.
Immediately prior to the electrical explosion, Mr. Ingolia had been cleaning a new switchgear cabinet as part of the modifications to the CTA’s Brown Line rectifier system. According to the Illinois wrongful death complaint, Ingolia believed that the cabinet’s power was off, which influenced his decision to raise his protective shield. When he did so, he essentially exposed himself to 12,600 volts of live electricity, which in turn caused the electrical explosion.
The decedent’s estate alleged that Target Electric, Inc. was negligent in that it failed to inform Mr. Ingolia that part of the electrical equipment was not turned off. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the instructions that were provided to Mr. Ingolia were confusing and made it difficult for him to safely perform his construction duties. Target Electric was the general contractor and was therefore responsible for the day-to-day management of the construction site.
In response to the estate’s allegations, the defendant contractor argued that the decedent had been an electrician for almost forty years and was therefore expected to know certain things about electricity. Specifically, Target Electric argued that he should have been aware of various warning signs that the switchgear cabinet was still live. Also, Target Electric contended that Mr. Ingolia’s experience should have told him to first verify whether there was still power, which he failed to do.
In addition, the general contractor argued that Mr. Ingolia was aware of his own contributory negligence to the construction site accident. It supported this claim with witnesses who reported that the decedent said, “I screwed up,” immediately following the explosion. Presumably this statement referred to the fact that Mr. Ingolia caused the explosion by lifting a protective shield covering the switchgear cabinet and exposing himself to the live electricity. Target Electric’s defense was that the decedent was aware of what he should have done, but knowingly neglected to do so.
While the Chicago jury did find the decedent to be partially at fault for his own death, it still felt that Target Electric was 75 percent responsible. The Chicago wrongful death verdict of $4,100,500 was composed of the following damages:
$1,700,000 for survival, pain and suffering;
$3,810,000 for loss of society and consortium;
$750,000 loss of money, goods and services; and
$50,000 for medical expenses.
However, the decedent’s estate will not actually receive the full $4.1 million award. Before the trial, all involved parties entered into a high-low agreement, which sets out the maximum, i.e., high, and minimum, i.e., low, amount of any jury award. The high-low agreement was for a high of $3.5 million and a low of $1.2 million. So, while the decedent’s estate would have been guaranteed $1.2 million even if the jury had entered a not guilty verdict, it likewise only is able to receive $3.5 million even though the verdict was higher. In addition, the parties negotiated a waiver of the $300,000 workers’ compensation lien.
Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois wrongful death cases and Chicago construction site injury lawsuits for over than 35 years in Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Oak Lawn, River Forest, Bensenville, Bolingbrook, Woodridge, Schaumburg, Naperville, and Park Forest.
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