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Chicago boy gets $3.5 million for accidental electrocution

A 15-year-old Chicago boy used a dumpster to climb up to an electrical platform belonging to Commonwealth Edison, which was located about 12 feet from the ground. When the boy slipped on a patch of ice on the platform, he reached out to break his fall but, in doing so, he touched a live wire and the electrical transformer. As a result, the boy suffered severe electrical burns, which required the surgical amputation of both his arms up to his elbows.

In the course of the lawsuit, Edmund Scanlan learned that children who lived in the neighborhood of the platform often climbed on the dumpster and up the electric pole used to support the transformer in order to play on an adjacent fire escape.

Scanlan filed suit against Commonwealth Edison, as well as Waste Management (the disposal company that owned the dumpster) and the real estate company that owned the building with the fire escape. Just before trial, the defendants settled with the family of the injured boy for a total amount of $3.5 million, with Commonwealth Edison paying $1.6 million, Waste Management paying $1.4 million, and the real estate company contributing $500,000. Scanlan also arranged to have a guardian appointed on behalf of the boy to administer the settlement funds and structured the settlement so that the boy receives monthly checks for the rest of his life.

According to Scanlan, the defendants were liable because “they should have known that the neighborhood children frequently played on the dumpster and fire escape that were located next to the transformer. Their failure to safeguard the area so as to prevent the children from playing near these incredibly dangerous conditions-which would have been easy and inexpensive to do-was inexcusable, and I’m sure the jury would have agreed with me had we gone to trial.”

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