Posted On: April 1, 2009 by Steven J. Malman

Orland Hills Refinery Worker’s Family to Receive $6 Million Wrongful Death Settlement in Addition to Illinois Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

An Illinois wrongful death settlement has been reached between the family of an Orland Hills refinery worker and Clark USA Inc, now named Premcor. The then-37-year-old worker, Gary Szabla, died on March 13, 1995 during an explosion at the Clark Oil refinery in Blue Island. The wrongful death case has been making its way through the courts for over a decade.

At first, a Cook County judge agreed with Clark USA and its claim that it could not be sued because it was protected under Illinois’s workers’ compensation law and that it was not directly in charge of daily operations at the refinery where the blast occurred. The wrongful death attorney representing Szabla’s family, however, argued that Clark USA was in charge of the refinery's decreased budget, which was forcing refinery workers to take on maintenance jobs that they were not trained to perform.

The Illinois Appellate Court would go on to overturn the Cook County judge’s ruling. Clark USA then took the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the appellate court’s ruling that because the company was in charged of the refinery’s operating budget, it could be held liable. The Illinois Supreme Court also found that because Clark USA was not Szabla’s direct employer, it could not avail of protections offered under workers’ compensation law.

The $6 million wrongful death settlement will go to Szabla’s widow, Elizabeth, who has also received workers’ compensation death benefits.

Also killed in the 1995 blast was 50-year-old refinery worker Michael Forsythe. His family filed their civil lawsuit for his wrongful death. Three other people were injured in the explosion.

Refinery Worker Injuries
Sandblasters, painters, refinery maintenance operators, pipe fitters, welders, and corrosion removal workers are just some of the many refinery workers who are prone to serious injuries and exposure to toxic substances while on the job. Refinery worker injuries can occur during fires or due to chemical burns, explosions, electrocution accidents, improper scaffolding, lead poisoning, exposure to heat, exposure to asbestos, and slip and fall accidents. Refinery workers also risk contracting occupational diseases, such as lung disease, silicosis, and multiple myeloma.

If someone in your family died in a refinery work accident, you may be entitled to receive Illinois workers’ compensation death benefits. You also may be able to file wrongful lawsuits against other negligent parties.

Refinery worker's family to get $6M, Southtownstar.com, April 1, 2009


Related Web Resources:
OSHA

Industrial Accidents, Chicago Tribune

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