Quantcast
Connect with us

Federal appeals court overturns majority of jury’s $180 million award over ConAgra silo fire

Published

on

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Tuesday said ConAgra Foods Inc was not liable for a 2010 fire and explosion at an Illinois flour mill that burned three workers, and overturned much of a nearly $180 million jury award against the packaged foods company and a contractor.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said a lower court judge should have granted judgment as a matter of law to ConAgra, whose products include Chef Boyardee pasta, Hunt’s ketchup and Peter Pan peanut butter.

ADVERTISEMENT

ConAgra had hired West Side Salvage Inc to help save the contents of a wheat pellet silo at a facility in Chester, Illinois, located about 60 miles south of St. Louis.

According to court papers, the silo had been smoldering for several weeks before it exploded on April 27, 2010, injuring Justin Becker, who was employed by West Side, and John Jentz and Robert Schmidt, who were employed by a subcontractor.

Jentz suffered burns covering more than 70 percent of his body, while Becker’s lungs were scarred from the inhalation of fumes, the papers show.

In 2012, after a three-week trial, an Illinois federal jury ordered Omaha, Nebraska-based ConAgra to pay $100 million of punitive damages to the workers and share responsibility with West Side for more than $77 million of compensatory damages.

ADVERTISEMENT

Writing for a three-judge 7th Circuit panel, Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook agreed that ConAgra was not liable under Illinois law for having hired West Side, an independent contractor, to address an unsafe condition in the silo because the “feared event” – the explosion – occurred.

“West Side could have negotiated for an indemnity or insurance for its benefit (and that of its workers and subcontractors) but did not do so,” Easterbrook wrote.

The 7th Circuit upheld compensatory damages awards against West Side, but dismissed a punitive damages award. It returned the case to U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan in East St. Louis, Illinois, to decide indemnification issues.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are pleased with the outcome of this case,” ConAgra spokeswoman Teresa Paulsen said.

ConAgra in court papers had estimated that it could have faced $177 million of liability. In June 2012, it said it believed insurance would cover the damages, minus a deductible.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ADVERTISEMENT

John Schultz, a lawyer for West Side, declined immediate comment, saying he had yet to review the decision.

The case is Jentz et al v. ConAgra Foods Inc et al, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 13-1505, 13-1542, 13-1543 and 13-1544.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)

ADVERTISEMENT

[Image: “Silver, shiny agricultural silos,” via Shutterstock]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Giuliani’s public invitation to Ukraine to interfere in US elections opened the door for other countries to run to Trump

Published

on

President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani turned heads with his bizarre, unhinged rant on national television that effectively urged Ukraine to continue trying to gather dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden — and for news outlets to take whatever they find seriously.

As Casey Michel wrote in The Daily Beast, even if this effort ultimately fails to turn up useful opposition research against Biden, this is a profoundly dangerous development for American democracy.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump whistleblower needs to go directly to FBI because Bill Barr can’t be trusted: Ex-FBI director

Published

on

Appearing on MSNBC with host Alex Witt, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi blew up Donald Trump's claim that he is the victim of a "Ukraine Witchhunt."

He then added that the whistleblower who went to the inspector general with a serious charge against the president should take what he has and go to the FBI within a week if nothing happens.

"We've got to get to the bottom of this, and we can't rely on leaks and certain reporters getting certain tidbits of information," the ex-FBI man explained. "This needs to be explored and it's likely this could end up in a criminal investigation."

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

Furious Biden goes scorched earth on ‘serial abuser’ Trump over smears in epic rant

Published

on

On Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden furiously laid into President Donald Trump amid reports he tried to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into digging up dirt on him and his son.

"Here's what I know, I know Trump deserves to be investigated," said Biden. "He is violating every basic norm of a president. You should be asking him the question, why is he on the phone with a foreign leader trying to intimidate a foreign leader, if that's what happened? That appears to have happened. You should be looking at Trump. Trump's doing this because he knows I'll beat him like a drum and he's using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me."

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Investigate and Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image