An Alabama jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before awarding an Alabama woman $10 million in damages for the death of her husband in a workplace accident in 2008. The woman’s husband was killed when he fell about 150 feet while helping paint a water tank. The woman sued her husband’s employer for negligence and failing to provide a safe working environment. As the general contractor for the job site, the widow argued that her deceased husband’s employer was responsible for workplace safety. The jury agreed.
After an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it was revealed that there were multiple safety violations at the water tank work site. In his closing argument, counsel for the Plaintiff asked the jurors to return a verdict that would send a message to all employers that they must provide a safe working environment for employees. The jury returned its verdict and sent that message to the tune of $10 million dollars.
Sadly, in a down economy, employers are cutting back on their safety training, programs, and equipment. This comes at the expense of the workers who are also trying to survive the downturn and provide for their families. In the end, it is commonplace for the employer to put profits over people. The only thing that even exists to deter such practices is the jury. This jury sent a message that if you are going to cut costs on safety, and one of your workers gets injured or killed as a result, you better be prepared to answer to a jury.