Safety procedures used by a steel manufacturing giant played a central role at the 2015 trial over the death of a 24-year-old electrical worker, and Conley Griggs & Partin's Cale Conley opened the proceeding with a powerful list of ways he believed the steel company could have prevented the deadly accident. Lanier v. Gerdau Ameristeel.
Eddie Lanier, an apprentice electrician for Action Electric, died after being struck by a 1,000 pound counterweight while working on a project at Gerdau Ameristeel's Cartersville Georgia mill in December 2011. Gerdau Ameristeel is the U.S. subsidiary of of Gerdau S.A., reportedly the largest producer of long steel in the Americas. However, during his opening, Conley painted a picture of a mill that gave Lanier no warning he was entering a dangerous area when he was inspecting a row of cooling fans he had been assigned to work on.
With a large posterboard list at hand, Conley highlighted seven ways he said testimony would show Gerdau Ameristeel could have prevented Lanier's death, including simply stopping Lanier and coworker Michael Harrison at the security gate until a safety lockout was complete. "Just hold them. When they got there that morning at the security gate, say 'Hey guys, you can't go in yet. The counterweights can still move; it hasn't been locked out,'" Conley said.
Conley's list powerfully previewed the trial testimony he said would show Gerdau violated recognized safety standards. "I want to be clear, the evidence is not going to be that they had to do all of these," Conley told jurors, as he detailed his list of what he believed could have avoided Lanier's death. "They could do any one of them."
Conley's list established the foundation for a $4.75 million verdict, with jurors assigning 75% fault to Gerdau Ameristeel, 20% to Action Electric and Harrison, and 5% to Lanier.
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