According to the Toledo Blade, a December 14, 2006, ruling by an appeals court in Ohio’s 8th District decided General Motors was aware that IBEW Local 8 electrician Lee Rettig faced danger from steam pipe and wiring insulation containing asbestos when he performed repairs at the company’s plants off and on from 1953 to 1990.

Rettig said he contracted mesothelioma from his work for GM and that neither he nor the contractors who sent him to GM were aware of the threat. Previously, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge had dismissed Rettig’s lawsuit, ruling that GM was not responsible for warning Rettig about the asbestos because being an electrician is inherently dangerous.

However, the appeals court said that GM was aware of the threat and therefore responsible for warning Rettig because asbestos exposure is not an inherent threat for electricians. Although the case against GM was revived, the case against Toledo Edison, a facility at which Rettig worked with asbestos, was not because the job was directed by Rettig’s contractor. According to lawyer Thomas Bevan, the ruling sets a precedent for trade workers who have been harmed on the job by asbestos.

In a similar story, according to the Albany Times Union, an electrician badly injured on the job has been awarded $4.5 million by the state supreme court of New York. The victim, an expert high-voltage line splicer, had been hired by a contractor to assist High Voltage Electric Services (HVES) in repairing an outage at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Materials Research Center. The electrician was working in a gear box to free a cable in mid-2004 when he grabbed what he thought was a dead wire. The wire was live, and he was badly electrocuted. His injuries required four surgeries during his three-week stay at a burn unit.

The victim filed suit against RPI and HVES, claiming that he was never told that the electricity in the building had been turned on and that the conditions of the site where the outage was based were dangerous. The court agreed, ruling, “Defendants cannot be relieved of liability because the risk of getting electrocuted was obvious or known to plaintiff when it is clear that the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident led him to believe that there was absolutely no risk of being electrocuted at that time.”     EC

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