Death is an inevitability in war. However, the deaths of some military members and others working for the military are caused by negligence, just as civilian workplace deaths sometimes are. That's what a Cook County jury found in the case of an Arlington Heights man who was employed by a contractor for the U.S. military in the Middle East.
The 64-year-old man was working for CAV International Inc. in Kuwait when he was killed in Oct. 2009. The victim was reportedly on a mobile conveyor belt loader unloading cargo when he took a fatal 20-foot fall onto the tarmac below. Witnesses to the scene reported that the employee operating the loader lowered the handrail as he was joking with others and not facing the victim. His action reportedly caused the man to fall to his death.
The victim, who was born in Scotland and became a U.S. citizen, left behind a wife and two sons. His wife wanted answers about how her husband, a longtime United Airlines employee who was reportedly extremely safety conscious, died.
Reportedly, neither CAV nor the U.S. military provided any information on the circumstances of the man's death. The family's attorney says that if CAV had even just apologized, they may not have sued. He says that not only did the man's employer not provide any information on his death, but "fought us at every turn." The military contractor claimed that because the man died in Kuwait, which does not have wrongful death lawsuits<, the family had no right to file one, even though the victim was a U.S. citizen employed by an American company.
The attorney for the family argued that the company was subject to the liability laws of Illinois because CAV has "earned tens of millions of dollars negotiating government contracts" in the state. The Chicago jury who heard the case apparently agreed. They awarded the family $6.65 million.
While this workplace death case may have been more complicated than most since it occurred overseas, any family who believes that a loved one's death was caused by negligence or wrongdoing has every right to pursue justice for that person. They may be able to recover both punitive and compensatory damages that will at least relieve some of their financial burden as they rebuild their lives.
Source: Daily Herald, "Jury awards $6.65 million to family of suburban man killed in Kuwait" Barbara Vitello, Feb. 19, 2014