The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Family of Man Burned to Death by Citric Acid Sues Raani Corp.

Carlos Centeno Sr. was sent to clean a tank filled with heated citric acid. According to his family, he was not given gloves or a mask, nor was he warned properly about the danger. When chemicals erupted from the tank and covered Centeno, he was burned on more than 80 percent of his body.

Though his skin was peeling from the burns, no ambulance was called, nor were the chemicals sprayed off in a safety shower. After about 30 minutes, a co-worker finally took Centeno to the hospital. He died less than a month later from the burns, reports Courthouse News Service.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a review of the accident by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration resulted in about $400,000 in fines for Raani Corp. of Bedford Park. In addition, violations of specific OSHA regulations were found in the review and have been alleged by the deceased's family in the resulting lawsuit.

Under the theory of negligence per se, the family should have a relatively easy time securing a judgment against the defendant, Raani Corp. When safety laws are violated, and the resulting harm is of the type contemplated by the safety regulation, then negligence is shown by the violation of the law itself. There is no need to prove the exhaustive traditional elements of a negligence case.

For example, if a person intentionally runs a red light and accidentally kills a pedestrian in the crosswalk, a violation of the red light law would be negligence per se. On the other hand, if the running of a red light shocked an elderly pedestrian's conscience and as a result, she had a heart attack, that probably wouldn't qualify.

One of the OSHA regulations that was allegedly violated was 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1), which requires a risk assessment of the chemicals in a tank prior to any cleaning. This evaluation would have resulted in a showing of a need for protective equipment. Other safety regulations would also have called for a safety shower to wash spilled chemicals off of workers. These regulations are in place to prevent the exact type of industrial accident that claimed Centeno's life.

Carlos Centeno's family is also alleging intentional withholding of medical treatment due to the delay in providing medical treatment to Centeno. They have used terms like "willful" instead of "negligent" throughout their lawsuit, likely because damages for willful actions leading to death would surpass those of accidental oversights leading to death. Either way, because of the numerous OSHA violations, some victory in the lawsuit seems likely.

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