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Jury finds Kansas utility 50 percent liable for roofer's death

A liability case involves at least two litigants - a defendant accused of purposely or negligently causing harm and a plaintiff directly or indirectly affected by the behavior. The claim must include proof of a financial hardship as a result of an injury or wrongful death.

Crawford County civil trials may include damages from one or multiple defendants. On occasion, a jury will decide an accident victim is partially responsible for liability. A victim's portion of damages is expressed in a percentage and subtracted from a total damage award.

A fatal workplace accident led to a wrongful death claim against a Kansas utility company and the owners of a home where the plaintiffs' son died. The victim, the employee of a contractor, was electrocuted in 2009 while working on the homeowners' roof.

The worker lost his life by making contact with an "uncovered" electrical connector. A judge determined earlier that the owners of the home bore no responsibility for the roofer's death. The husband and wife were dropped from the case, leaving Kansas City Power & Light as the sole defendant.

KCP&L attorneys argued the contractor could have notified the utility of the exposed connector before attempting to replace the roof. The defendant felt the utility could not be liable for an unknown problem.

The parents' lawyers countered by claiming KCP&L neglected a "duty of care" by failing to insulate the connector. The plaintiffs asserted the utility company easily could have provided protection that would have saved the roofer's life.

The electric company was ordered to pay half of a $2 million judgment. Ten of 12 jurors, enough for a verdict, agreed the liability for the fatal work site accident was split between KCP&L and the victim.

Compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit is awarded for economic reasons, like medical or burial costs and wage losses. Damages are also awarded for survivors' emotional trauma.

Source:, "KCP&L ordered to pay in wrongful death case" Marshall White, Sep. 27, 2013

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