Federal jury assesses majority of fault to co-defendant06/26/2012
Three workers sued Con Agra and its subcontractor, West Side Salvage, for personal injury and punitive damages arising out of a 2010 grain bin explosion in Chester, Illinois. One worker suffered third degree burns over 75% of his face and body which required numerous skin grafts. Another worker's entire face, eyelids and corneas were burned and his lungs were burned from inhaling fire. Con Agra had hired West Side Salvage to clean out a grain bin that had wheat mids that were on fire. During the seventh day of West Side's work on the bin, it exploded. Just prior to the explosion, a West Side foreman had instructed two of the workers to reenter the grain elevator to remove some equipment to clear the way for the fire department. Con Agra argued that the instruction of West Side's foreman to reenter the grain elevator was the sole proximate cause of the worker's injuries. West Side argued that Con Agra's delay in hiring West Side to clean out the bid, while a cheaper contractor was pursued, was reckless and the cause of the explosion. Following a four week jury trial in front of United States District Judge Michael Reagan in East St. Louis, Illinois, where actual damages of over 100 million and punitive damages over one billion dollars were sought, the jury returned a verdict assessing the majority of the fault for the explosion and resulting injuries to Con Agra. John Schultz and Jason Moore represented West Side Salvage in the trial. The case is styled Jentz v. ConAgra Foods Inc., Case No. 10 CV 0474-MJR, tried in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.