(Clinton, MO)- A Missouri Circuit Court judge has found Kansas City Power & Light responsible for respiratory injuries sustained by an employee at the coal-fired Montrose Station power plant in Clinton, MO.
Judge William R. Hass on January 26, 2017 awarded the plaintiff James Philpott, of Clinton, MO, nearly $5,389,676.59 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. He also awarded $300,000 in compensatory damages to Philpott’s wife Mary.
The judge reached his verdict after a bench trial that was heard between August 23-31 and September 1 and 2 in the Circuit Court of Henry County MO, and September 15-16 and 29-30 in the Circuit Court of Jackson County.
Attorneys for Humphrey, Farrington & McClain in Independence, MO told the judge that their client James Philpott was exposed to sulfur and sulfur compounds, which caused him to develop occupational asthma. Philpott has worked at the Montrose Station plant since 1987 and became a journeyman mechanic in 2004.
As a journeyman mechanic, Philpott was required to perform maintenance work on the sulfur injection system at the Montrose Station plant. First utilized at Montrose Station in 1993, the sulfur injection system pumped molten sulfur from a 60-ton storage tank to three burner houses to create sulfur dioxide. Then it was passed through a catalyst to create sulfur trioxide.
But the sulfur injection system leaked sulfuric gases into the air and James Philpott was diagnosed with asthma in January 2012. But he was still required to work on the sulfur injection system after his diagnosis. And in May of 2013, his pulmonologist diagnosed him with occupational irritant-induced asthma.
Evidence presented to the judge showed that KCP&L did not provide James Philpott with respiratory protection to wear while performing repairs on the sulfur injection system. No formal training about the hazards of sulfur and sulfur compounds was provided to Montrose Station employees until 2013. And James Philpott worked more hours in the sulfur pump house than any other employee in 2011, the same year he reported respiratory symptoms to his treating physician.
“The Court finds clear and convincing evidence based on the totality of evidence adduced at trial that KCP&L showed complete indifference to the safety of others, including Plaintiff, as well as a conscious disregard for the safety of others,” Judge Hass wrote in his ruling.
Kenneth B. McClain, the senior partner at Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, said James Philpott was a strong and healthy man before his diagnosis and noted that he built his own house and lake.
“This was a very preventable exposure,” Mr. McClain said, “and it was caused by the recklessness of KCP&L and their complete hostility towards recognizing the health risks to which they were putting their employees.”
The Philpott’s also were represented by Humphrey, Farrington & McClain attorneys Michael S. Kilgore, Colin W. McClain and Lauren E. McClain. The personal injury law firm has recovered more than $1 billion in damages on behalf of clients who have suffered injury or financial loss because of other people’s negligence.
For any questions, or additional information, Kenneth B. McClain can be reached at 816-225-5444.