Burn Victim Settles Suit Against IBM, Contractor for $9.5M

March 28, 2005

An apprentice technician who received burns on 60 percent of his body after an electrical explosion, settled a lawsuit this week against engineering contract firm Fluor Corp. and technology powerhouse IBM Corp.

Fluor’s insurance companies will pay $9.5 million in damages, and Fluor’s workers’ compensation carrier paid $5.9 million in medical bills for David McNabb, 37, McNabb’s attorney said.

McNabb was hospitalized for 20 months after an accident at an IBM facility in San Jose in January 2002.

An IBM supervisory engineer asked McNabb and another Fluor contractor to scavenge replacement parts from shutdown electrical equipment in a building where the electrical unit allegedly was labeled with a yellow “out of service” tag. When McNabb applied his wrench to a piece of equipment, 12,400 volts exploded through his body, said his attorney Richard Alexander.

Representatives from Aliso Viejo-based Fluor, one of the world’s largest engineering companies, did not return calls seeking comment.

IBM spokesman Edward Barbini emphasized that Fluor’s insurance company, not IBM, paid the settlement.

Alexander had argued that Fluor and IBM were at fault. IBM, Fluor and the IBM supervisory engineer were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

“IBM was negligent because its own regulations prohibit anyone working on or near exposed energized electrical conductors,” Alexander said. “He never should have been sent there.”

The facility where McNabb worked has been the source of numerous lawsuits. Dozens of workers and retirees from IBM’s disk drive plant have alleged that exposure to toxic chemicals caused them to develop cancer.

Last year, two plaintiffs who suffered liver disease, breast and brain cancers while working in the plant lost their multimillion-dollar lawsuits after a four-month trial. Jurors ruled that retirees Alida Hernandez and James Moore did not develop systemic chemical poisoning at IBM, despite workplace exposure to trichloroethylene, cadmium, toluene, benzene, arsenic and other toxins.

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