CALDWELL – A Washington County, Ohio, jury returned a verdict of $5.671 million to a 53-year-old Caldwell man who sustained injuries as a result of an explosion at an AEP plant in 2007.
Drumand McLaughlin was employed AEP's subsidiary, Ohio Power Company, when he sustained shoulder injuries during the Jan. 8, 2007, explosion at the Beverly, Ohio AEP facility.
The jury found that Ohio Power Company acted with a deliberate intent to cause harm to McLaughlin.
McLaughlin's attorney, Geoffrey Brown, of the Wheeling law firm of Bordas & Bordas, PLLC, said the verdict sends a message to large corporations that there is more to doing business than earning a profit.
"Large companies have to conduct their business in a safe manner in which their employees and the general public are not put in harm's way," Brown said.
Brown and Chris Regan, another Bordas & Bordas attorney, along with Rod Windom and Scott Windom of Harrisville, represented McLaughlin.
The two-week long trial included testimony from numerous experts, including compressed gas experts, since the explosion was caused by the dangerous conditions on a hydrogen tank at the Muskingum River facility.
Evidence during the trial showed that AEP had experienced a similar explosion at its Kammer plant in Marshall County, W.Va. approximately 15 months earlier, but did not take the steps to correct that problem at the Miskingum River facility following the Kammer explosion.
A series of fires and explosions in company hydrogen systems and a litany of documents establishing company knowledge of the dangers led the jury to conclude that AEP was liable for deliberately intending injuries to occur.
"Companies cannot simply ignore major safety issues at their facilities," Regan said. "The jury was able to hear the evidence and concluded that we cannot allow this type of conduct to go unpunished."
The jury awarded $1.571 million to McLaughlin and $100,000 to his wife and $4 million in punitive damages. The jury also determined that the McLaughlins should be entitled to recover their reasonable attorney fees in an amount that will be determined by Court of Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane, who presided over the case.
Being held accountable for ignoring safety rules is a necessity, Regan said.
"We feel it's very important that a large company that disregards its safety rules that are put in place to protect employees be held accountable for those actions," Regan said.