Widow of Kansas Man Killed in Evergy Accident Wins Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas jury has awarded $222 million to the widow of a Kansas man who died in an accident at Evergy’s Jeffrey Energy Center power plant near St. Marys, Kansas, in 2018.

The jury found that Team Industrial Services, a Texas-based subcontractor to Westar Energy, was 90% responsible for the death of Jesse Henson, of Manhattan, the family’s attorneys said in a news release Tuesday.

Henson and a co-worked, Damien Burchett, of Overbrook, were burned alive when they were investigating a loss of power at the steam plant near St. Marys, Kansas, on June 3, 2018.

Westar, which is now called Evergy, was found to be 10% responsible, The Wichita Eagle reported.

The deaths occurred after Team finished rebuilding parts in three generation units at the coal-fired plant.

Burchett and Henson went to investigate a loss of steam at one of the three units. When their elevator door opened, they were engulfed in superheated steam that leaked from the defective rebuilt valve, according to the lawsuit.

Team argued Westar and Henson were largely responsible for the accident.

Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig said the company would have no immediate comment on the case.

Burchett’s relatives have filed a separate lawsuit for his death

David Nickel, chief consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board in Kansas, said Evergy may have legal protection that will allow it to pay far less than its $22 million share of the jury’s award, according to a report by The Wichita Eagle. He said Kansas statutes limit workers’ compensation death benefits to $250,000, although he acknowledged that he had not find any law directly on point, the Eagle reported.

Team Industrial has said it plans to appeal the decision, which means resolution may be years away, the newspaper said.