Lawsuit filed in fire death

by John O'Brien |
Jul. 13, 2006, 2:45am

MOUNDSVILLE - The estate of a man who burned to death during a scrubber operation at a power plant in Moundsville has filed a lawsuit in Marshall Circuit Court against 11 defendants.

Tiffani D. Talbert, acting as the administratrix of the Estate of Gerald Talbert, filed the suit June 30. David Earley and Timothy Wells, who claim to have been injured in the fire, also are listed as plaintiffs.

Gerald Talbert was 27 and had just relocated to West Virginia from Indiana with his pregnant wife Tiffani and two children when he died during a March 4 fire at the Kammer Power Plant. He was trapped in a 100-story smokestack when the fire broke out.

The listed defendants are Structural Group, Inc.; Pullman Power, LLC; Ohio Power Co.; American Electric Power Company, Inc.; B.E.T. LTD, dba Bridgeport Equipment and Tool; Fiberglass Structural Engineering, Inc.; Ershings, Inc.; and John Does 1-5.

"At the time of the fire, David Earley, Timothy Wells and Gerald W. Talbert were employees of Pullman engaged in the scrubber operation at the Kammer Plant site," the complaint says. "At the time of the fire ... Talbert was riding in the man lift when the wire cable failed, trapping Gerald W. Talbert in the fire."

Pullman said Talbert was part of a crew installing fiberglass lining inside the smokestack.

A press release from AEP, which owns the plant, said, "The fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday as Pullman employees were working inside the stack. A number of Pullman employees escaped through the bottom of the stack. Three located on top of the stack were rescued by helicopter at approximately 10:45 p.m. One other, Talbert, was missing."

When the fire broke out, the lawsuit says Talbert tried to escape via a man lift, but a defective cable prevented the lift from working properly.

"Defendant, B.E.T. and/or John Doe 5, negligently and recklessly placed the unreasonably dangerous wire cable into the stream of commerce and specifically on the scrubber project," the complaint says.

Ohio Power Co. and AEP are blamed for being owners of the plant. Ohio Power is a subsidiary of AEP.

Pullman Power was Talbert's employer and is a subsidiary of Structural Group. The five John Does are unknown project engineers on the scrubber operation, and Fiberglass Structural Engineering and/or Ershings were contracted to perform work related to the operation, the lawsuit says.

"Due to the combined negligence, reckless conduct and other conduct of the defendants ... Gerald W. Talbert was injured, damaged and killed, and plaintiffs David Earley and Timothy Wells were injured and damaged," the complaint says.

It adds that the project engineers should have known that Pullman's scrubber installation plan was unsafe and unreasonably dangerous. It blames the engineers for starting the fire.

"John Does 1-5 negligently, recklessly and improperly assisted in deviating from the generally accepted industry practices, applicable regulations, restrictions and limitations applicable to Pullman's scrubber installation," the complaint says.

The plaintiffs state eight causes for relief: Negligence, professional negligence, respondeat superior, gross negligence, deliberate intent, products liability, punitive damages and damages.
Moundsville attorney Donald Kresen of Gold, Khourey and Turak is representing Earley; Robert Fitzsimmons of Wheeling firm Fitzsimmons and Associates is representing Talbert; and James Villanova of Pittsburgh firm Villanova Law Offices is representing Wells.

They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs.

Judge John Madden has been assigned the case.

Marshall Circuit Court case number 06-C-153

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