Luis Ibarra, Sr. v. Pactiv Corporation

Electrical Burn Injury Case

Gene Hollander settled a catastrophic personal injury case for a record amount. On October 10, 2003, Gene Hollander settled the case of Luis Ibarra, Sr. v. Pactiv Corporation for $3.5 million.

Luis Ibarra, Sr. was an ironworker employed by Midwest Fence Corporation. On April 20, 2001, Mr. Ibarra, along with his two other ironworkers, was installing a security gate at Pactiv Corporation in Wheeling, Illinois. As they were installing the gate, Mr. Ibarra, along with his son, who was the foreman, realized that the gate had to be rotated to snap into an overhead cross beam. As the Ibarras rotated the gate, a gatepost contacted an overhead power line which carried 34,000 volts of electricity.

Mr. Ibarra, Sr. sustained a severe electrical injury and was airlifted to Loyola University Hospital. He sustained second and third degree burns over 60% of his body. Mr. Ibarra, Sr. underwent four surgical procedures involving painful skin grafts. The Plaintiff subsequently was admitted to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for physical and occupational therapy.

Mr. Ibarra, Sr. was unable to work again after the injury. The Plaintiff contended that Pactiv Corporation failed to de-energize the power lines before the Midwest Fence employees came out to the jobsite, and that Pactiv permitted the ironworkers to work within ten feet of an energized power source, in violation of OSHA regulations. Evidence in the case revealed that Pactiv’s Safety Director reviewed a sketch of the jobsite, but failed to consider that the security gate was being installed in close proximity to the overhead power line. The evidence further revealed that the plant’s Technical Manager and Plant Manager were all familiar with OSHA’s “ten foot rule,” yet none of them took any steps to insure the workers’ safety on the jobsite. Plaintiff also contended that Luis Ibarra, Sr. requested that Pactiv re-route truck traffic which was entering the plant as the Ibarras worked, but that Pactiv refused to do so.

In addition to his treating doctors who were set to testify as to his permanent injuries, Gene Hollander retained a number of experts to analyze the liability and damages phases of the case. Mr. Hollander retained a human factors expert who opined that it was difficult to judge the distance of the overhead power line to the gatepost. Mr. Ibarra’s attorney also retained the services of a safety expert who was prepared to testify that Pactiv Corporation was negligent in failing to turn the power off while the ironworkers were preparing to install the gate. Mr. Hollander also retained a vocational rehabilitation expert and economist who were prepared to render opinions as to Mr. Ibarra’s future lost wages.

At the mediation conference, Plaintiff’s counsel utilized a day-in-the-life video of the Plaintiff, a computer animation of the incident, and videotaped excerpts of Defendant’s safety expert. “The admissions of the defense expert, that Pactiv was in partial control of the jobsite, along with testimony which corroborated Dr. Wilcox (the human factors expert), were key in demonstrating the liability issues in this case,” Hollander stated. “The day-in-the-life video also had tremendous impact, especially coupled with the medical illustrations of the surgical procedures which we used,” Hollander stated.

“Though Mr. Ibarra suffered a terrible injury, he is lucky to be alive. He is thankful that he will have sufficient money to compensate him for his loss,” Hollander observed. According to the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter, a publication which tracks settlements and verdicts in Cook County, Illinois, this was the largest settlement for a single burn victim in the age group of 50 or older.