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$16 million awarded for wrongful death of two Illinois teens

In a shocking accident around four years ago, two teen boys who were only 14 and 19 were working at a grain facility in Mount Carroll, Illinois. Instructed by their employer to enter a grain bin and try to get clumps of corn to break up, they went inside. They fell into the grain funnel and wound up literally being buried in corn, suffocating and suffering painful compression marks on their battered bodies. Their deaths prompted actions leading to awards of $8 million each to their two families for their wrongful deaths.

An investigation after the fact by an agency of the U.S. Labor Department found that the company neglected to train the teens it hired, should have given them safety harnesses to use while working in precarious positions, such as inside the grain bins, and did not try to scope out an adequate plan for how to cope with such emergencies. As a consequence, the teens lay under the fallen corn for literally hours until personnel could finally dig out their cold and lifeless corpses.

A jury made the two $8 million wrongful death awards against the company that was renting the grain bin at the time of the accident. A third man, involved in the accident, too, but who managed to somehow survive, was awarded $875,000 in damages. The money awarded to the families, of course, will never bring back their precious loved ones, nor does the award to the surviving victim adequately compensate him for his horrible ordeal.

But those responsible for such senseless tragedies certainly should justly bear the economic burden. Additionally, such awards help to send a message to reckless businesses that endanger employees, including relatively helpless teens, that such irresponsible conduct comes at a price. If it helps to deter one similar accident in the future, the victims and their families have performed a service to the community.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Families of grain bin victims hope lawsuit victory brings change" Jennifer Delgado, Feb. 08, 2014

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