Madison - St. Clair Record

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Electrician's suit against GE, others in Ruth's court June 29

By Ann Maher | Jun 27, 2016

General court 4

A case management conference is set June 29 in Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth's court involving a US Steel worker's personal injury claim against his employer and others over severe burns he suffered in 2014.

Michael Combs Sr. and his wife Dorothy Combs of Missouri are suing General Electric, Sachs Electric and ICR Engineering over an alleged design defect in a General Electric product.

US Steel is a third party defendant in claims brought by General Electric.

According to his complaint, Michael Combs was working as a maintenance electrician at US Steel's Granite City steel mill Feb. 12, 2014, when he responded to an alarm and entered the power control room to check a drive component sold by General Electric and maintained by ICR Engineering.

The lawsuit states that when the cabinet door to the drive was opened, an arc flash originated from the fuses, causing third degree burns to more than 30 percent of Combs' body, including his head, face, neck, chest, torso, arms and hands.

The complaint states that a US Steel investigation determined that a failure in the drive caused an excessive heat condition causing the metallic coating of the resistor bank guard to flake off toward the fuses, causing a phase to phase arc flash. According to the complaint, the placement of the resistor bank and coated guard above the fuses was an inadequate and dangerous design.

General Electric is accused of negligently designing the drive, and ICR Engineering is accused of negligently failing to warn US Steel and its employees of the danger of the design.

Represented by Steven Sanders of Williams Venker in St. Louis, GE has denied liability on a number of grounds, including that the equipment related to Combs' accident may have been altered, and that it had not been properly maintained.

General Electric also claims that Combs' own negligence was a contributing factor in the accident.

Sachs Electric, represented by Russell Scott of the Greensfelder firm in Belleville, also denies liability, saying that Combs'injuries were caused or contributed to by his own negligence in failing to wear the correct personal protective gear as required by safety rules of US Steel and that he also failed to keep a careful lookout.

He knew "it was necessary to de-energize the equipment at issue and to lock energy out from the equipment before attempting to access the equipment; therefore, Plaintiffs' claims are barred in whole or in part...," Scott wrote.

"That the nature of the machinery or equipment was such that Plaintiff Michael Combs' ...should have known that it was necessary to properly wear the correct protective gear, to de-energize the equipment...and to lockout energy to the equipment before attempting to access the equipment."

Beth Boggs of St. Louis represents ICR Engineering.

Jeffrey Klaus of St. Louis represents US Steel.

Dorothy Combs also is suing for loss consortium.

The Combses seek more than $50,000 in damages plus costs of suit. They are represented by attorney Matthew R. Chapman of Becker, Schroader and Chapman in Granite City.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 14-L-1396.

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