NJ Worker Injured in Connecticut Explosion Files Suit in Federal Court

A River Vale, NJ, man injured in an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut filed a suit in federal court on August 17, claiming the owners of the plant and several other contractors failed to take safety precautions that may have prevented the accident. (1)

Nicholas Novik, an employee of Instrument Sciences and Technology of Frenchtown, NJ, was calibrating and testing instruments at the Middletown, CT, plant when the explosion occurred. Six people were killed and 50 others injured in the incident. Novik suffered head trauma, which caused a concussion and hearing loss. He still receives medical treatment and has not yet been permitted to return to work. He is seeking $6 million in damages. (2)

Novik’s wife, Patricia, is also participating in the suit, claiming loss of consortium (i.e., loss of companionship or loss of the benefits of a family relationship). (3)

The accident occurred last February when an accumulation of natural gas and air ignited during a procedure known as a “gas blow.” In a gas blow, high-pressured gas is pushed through pipes to clean or purge them. Although the exact source of the ignition is still unknown, the suit alleges that several safety procedures were violated. Among the violations cited were diesel and gas heaters being left on and welders working close by. The power plant was under construction at the time of the incident. (3)

Just weeks prior to the suit being filed, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) levied fines of $16.6 million against the plant owner, Kleen Energy Systems, and several other contractors, including O&G Industries, also a Connecticut company which served as general contractor on construction of the plant; Keystone Construction & Maintenance Services, a Massachusetts company; and Bluewater Energy Solutions, a Georgia company; in addition to several smaller contractors. OSHA claimed the companies ignored industry-wide, as well as their own, safety procedures and guidelines. (1)

Several other lawsuits have been filed in state courts on behalf of other workers killed and injured in the explosion. Novik’s suit was the first to be filed in federal court. This was done because the companies named in the suit are from different states. As a result of that filing, those companies now must provide documentation and identification of witnesses, which can be used in the investigation of the incident. (3)

(1) http://www.northjersey.com/news/ny_metro/081710_River_Vale_worker_injured_in_Ct_power_plant_explosion_files_6M_lawsuit.html

(2) http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local-beat/NJ-Man-Plans-to-File-6M-Suit-in-Power-Plant-Explosion-100787639.html

(3) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/08/nj_worker_to_sue_power_compani.html