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UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v. L.E. MYERS COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 07-2464. United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Argued February 26, 2008. Decided April 10, 2009.
847*847 Eric Sussman (argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Corey B. Rubenstein (argued), Stetler & Duffy, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.
Before KANNE, SYKES, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.
SYKES, Circuit Judge.
The Wade Cumpston Fatality
About three months later, on March 25, 2000, Wade Cumpston, a journeyman linesman with extensive experience working on electrical towers, was part of an L.E. Myers crew replacing insulators on another set of transmission lines. The wires on the side where the crew was working had been de-energized, but the wires on the other side had not. This left the possibility that the de-energized wires could become energized by induction from the high voltage in the energized wires. To mitigate the risk, the crew was required to use grounding cables to connect the uninsulated bucket they worked in to the tower.
The crew working on the tower complained to the foreman, Clifton Gooch, that the grounding cables were too short. Gooch said he would ask Nelson (again, the general foreman on this job) about replacing the cables. When the men complained again, Gooch told them to do the work with the cables they had or go home. The linesmen successfully replaced two insulators without incident using the grounding cables they thought were too short. As they removed the grounds from the next insulator, however, Cumpston and another member of the crew were electrocuted. Cumpston was killed. The other crew member survived, but the accident severely 850*850 damaged his memory and he was unable to recall what happened with the grounding cables. No one else on the job saw what happened when the two were electrocuted.
Firm guilty in '99 electrocution death
June 03, 2005
One of the nation's oldest electrical contractors was convicted last month of violating workplace safety rules in the 1999 death of an employee in what federal prosecutors say is one of the rarest criminal cases in Chicago federal court history, according to the Chicago Tribune.
L.E. Myers Co. was found guilty of willfully breaking OSHA regulations in the death of Blake Lane, 20, who was killed on his second day working for the company.
The Rolling Meadows-based company was acquitted of a second charge in the 2000 death of Wade Cumpston, 43.
Prosecutors say L.E. Myers willfully ignored workplace regulations that would have kept both men alive.
"We are trying to ensure worker's safety and send a message to corporations that OSHA regulations are going to be taken seriously," Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Sussman said.
L.E. Myers "shirked their responsibility, a very serious responsibility," Sussman said.
The company faces a maximum sentence of 5 years' probation and a $500,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge, prosecutors said.
L.E. Meyer's parent company, MYR Group, issued a two-page statement that said the company investigated the two incidents and did not believe it had violated any OSHA standards.
Both incidents happened within three months of each other.
Lane, of Sullivan, Ill., was a rookie in the power-line construction industry when he was jolted by 2,400 volts of electricity atop a 120-foot steel tower in Mt. Prospect on Dec. 28, 1999.
Prosecutors said Lane, who was inexperienced, was not warned by his foreman that the line was live.
Cumpston, of Ashland, Ky., was an experienced lineman who was electrocuted while working in a bucket at a Plainfield ComEd tower. He tried to remove one end of a ground wire while the wire's other end was still attached to a live power line. Prosecutors alleged that the line had not been properly grounded.
The deaths of Lane and Cumpston were the latest in a long history of workplace fatalities for L.E. Myers, a company that builds and repairs high-voltage power lines. A Tribune investigation in 2003 showed the company had had 35 work-related deaths and 200 violations of federal and state safety rules since 1972.
Stanford University Law professor William Gould called the L.E. Myers' case unusual.
"I do know that is a rare occurrence for criminal sanctions to be sought against violations for health and safety," said Gould, who specializes in labor law and is a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in Washington.
One of the reasons might be that the standard of proof in a criminal case is much higher than that in a civil proceeding, he said.
Both Cumpston's and Lane's families have civil litigation pending against L.E. Myers, Sussman said.
CHECK OUT HIS FATHER MICHAEL J. CUMPSTON