Safety and OSHA News

Worker dies of burns from gas explosion; Jury awards his family $2.6M

It’s rare that a family can successfully sue a company in connection with the death of a relative who was an employee — workers’ comp is usually the exclusive remedy.

But in this case, a jury awarded almost $2.6 million to the family after evidence showed a supervisor tried to cover up a gas leak.

Nathaniel McCants was an employee of Roads, Inc., in Florida. In April 2006, McCants was working in a 48-inch concrete pipe when a flash fire burned over 85% of his body. He died several days later in a hospital burn unit.

A lawsuit filed by McCants’ estate sought damages outside of the workers’ comp system.

In Florida, and other states, the only way survivors can sue in this type of case is to show a supervisor engaged in conduct that was “virtually certain to result in jury to the employee where the supervisor misrepresents the risk to the employee and prevents the employee from making an informed choice about continuing with the work.”

The lawsuit alleged Roy Johns, a supervisor, hid knowledge of a gas leak from the employees on his crew to expedite a storm drainage system project in Pensacola.

Lawyers for McCants’ four minor children said there was clear evidence Roads’ crews had damaged gas lines and caused a leak during the construction.

Previously, Roads had also settled out of court a separate civil suit on behalf of the four children.

What do you think about the jury’s verdict? Let us know in the comments below.

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