Illinois jury awards $16M to families of workers killed in grain bin
Third victim who survived to receive $875,000
An Illinois jury has awarded more than $16 million to the families of two teenagers who died in a 2010 grain bin accident and a third worker who was trapped in the bin but survived.
Alejandro Pacas, 19, and Wyatt Whitebread, 14, were killed after they were sent into a Haasbach LLC grain bin to help keep the corn flowing, or "walk down the grain," while the machinery was running. The two, along with Will Piper, 20, became trapped in corn more than 30 feet deep. Piper was rescued after six hours.
The jury found Haasbach owner Consolidated Grain and Barge responsible for the deaths. The families of Pacas and Whitebread each will receive $8 million, and Piper was awarded $875,000. The judgment, reached after a 13-day trial, is a record in Carroll County, Ill. According to plaintiffs attorneys, the previous records were a $220,000 verdict in 1989 and a $1.1 million settlement in 2005.
Haasbach, which has since gone out of business, paid $200,000 in federal fines for 25 violations. The violations include not properly training the workers, not providing safety harnesses, failure to ensure the machinery was turned off, and failure to develop an emergency action plan. Haasbach also paid more than $68,000 for violating child labor laws.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jonathan Sandoz, general counsel for Consolidated Grain and Barge Company, said they plan to appeal the verdict.