Carroll County Families
Awarded Nearly $17 Million After Two-and-a -Half Week Trial
A record $16 million verdict on behalf of two families whose sons were killed in a grain bin entrapment incident in northwestern Illinois was the result of a two-and-a-half-week trial,
The Carroll County jury deliberated just eight hours before granting $8 million to each of the two plaintiffs’ families who were working at Haasbach at a Consolidated Grain and Barge Company grain elevator. The previous record in Carroll County was a $220,000 verdict in 1989 and a $1.1 million settlement in 2005, according to John Kirkton of the Jury Verdict Reporter.
The incident involved the July, 2010 deaths of Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alejandro Pacas, 19, who were standing on the grain in the bin, pushing the grain down to go to a conveyor. According to a third worker, Will Piper, he and Pacas jumped in to save Whitebread who was crying for help as he was being buried like quicksand. Pacas jumped into what became a sinkhole trying to pull out Whitebread and they both suffocated.
Piper was partially engulfed to his neck for approximately six hours before rescuers were able to save him. The jury awarded him $875,000. He was represented by Loren Golden of Golden Law Office in Elgin.
“These boys should not have been working in the bin in the first place,” said Kevin P. Durkin, one of the attorneys at Clifford Law Offices, following the record verdict. “Consolidated Grain and Barge had ultimate responsibility for what went on in that bin and the company failed these families.”
The U.S. Department of Labor issued 25 citations to Haasbach with a penalty of $555,000 after an investigation into the deaths. The department found Haasbach violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s Child Labor standards for employing anyone less than 18 to perform hazardous jobs. Haasbach was fined $68,125 for that violation.
Suffocation from engulfment is a leading cause of death in grain bins. The number of deaths more than doubled between 2006 and 2010, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
The Chicago Tribune was allowed to tape the closing arguments of the attorneys, marking the first time that occurred in Carroll County.
This trial was presided over by Judge Val Gunnarsson of the 15th Judicial Circuit before the nine-men-three-women jury.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jonathan Sandoz, general counsel for Consolidated Grain and Barge Company, said that they plan to appeal the verdict.