Illinois-American's motion for summary judgment in suffocation suit set for hearing Friday

Amelia Flood Jan. 11, 2011, 5:42am


A summary judgment move filed by Illinois-American Water Company in a wrongful death suit stemming from a man's suffocation in a utility vault will be heard Friday.

Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge is set to hear the move at 10:30 a.m. in the case filed by Carolyn Estes, the administrator of the estate of Jerry Estes.

Carolyn Estes is suing Illinois-American Water Company and Forest Homes-Maple Park Public Water District for damages in excess of $150,000 and costs.

Carolyn Estes claims that her husband, a Roxanna resident, was working in an underground utility vault as an employee of the Forest Homes water district in August 2008.

On Aug. 4, 2008, Jerry Estes suffocated while in the vault on orders to turn off Illinois-American's water valves.

His wife claims the water company failed to inspect the vault to prevent injury and failed to warn her husband that the vault was an oxygen vitiated environment.

Illinois American claims in its summary judgment motion that the Forest Homes water district owned the vault and that it is liable as both the vault's owner and Jerry Estes' employer.

Carolyn Estes, in her Nov. 3, 2010 response to the summary judgment move, argues that Illinois-American exercised control over the vault, modified its lid and increased the risk of suffocation by doing so.

She points to depositions stating the water company controlled the design of the vault by supplying the water district with plans for its construction.

The plaintiff also argues the water company owned the equipment located in the vault and that it performed maintenance on it.

The issue had been set for hearing Dec. 17, 2010 but was pushed back.

Mary Massa represents Carolyn Estes.

Carl Pesce and Erick VanDorn represent the water company.

Michael Garavalia represents the water district.

The case is Madison case number 09-L-734.

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