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Machine maker pays $9.75M for role in workplace accident


A Newberry man who suffered severe burns on 90 percent of his body when scalding-hot water splashed onto him in a workplace accident has settled with the company who made the dangerous machine that allegedly caused the accident for $9.75 million, his attorney reports.

Dick Harpootlian of Columbia reports that his client, Cephus Glenn, was burned from his feet to his neck in 2016 while he was working near a machine called an ash-handler that was manufactured by AshTech Corporation. Glenn was working at the Norbord Inc. factory in Kinards, which manufactures wood-based paneling.

Glenn said that he was washing debris from the area around the ash-handler when a large mass of debris suddenly fell out of the furnace into the machine’s water tank, displacing the scalding-hot water and causing it to splash onto him.

The 160-degree water immediately caused him to suffer third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body, requiring extensive medical treatment—he was in a medically-induced coma for two months during recovery—and left him with injuries including severe pain, permanent impairment, mental anguish, emotional distress, and past and future lost earnings.

Glenn claimed that the accident could have been prevented had AshTech provided a protective cover over the tank, which would have prevented the splash from occurring. After the incident, AshTech gave Norbord Inc. instructions on how to construct such a lid, Harpootlian said.

South Carolina workers’ compensation law prohibited Glenn from suing his employer, but Harpootlian said there are no such restrictions on seeking damages against others who might have partial liability.

“In this case, there were numerous allegations of negligence on behalf of the employer, but workers’ compensation law precludes any lawsuit against them,” Harpootlian said. “Recent South Carolina case law doesn’t allow for apportionment between the employer and a negligent third party, so it’s a good route to pursue for your client’s benefit.”

Glenn’s $8 million medical bill was covered by workers’ compensation. About $1.7 million of the $9.75 million settlement will go to reimbursing the workers’ compensation fund.

AshTech admitted no fault in settlement documents and denied Glenn’s allegations. Harpootlian said it’s important to think outside the box when representing clients in workers’ compensation cases.

“The important lesson of this case is that, when you have a workplace accident, to immediately conclude workers compensation is the exclusive remedy would be foolhardy in many cases,” Harpootlian said. “A lawyer should look beyond the negligence or the alleged culpability of the employer to see if there’s anyone else who may have partial liability.”

Follow Matt Chaney on Twitter @SCLWChaney


Amount: $9.75 million

Injuries alleged: Third-degree burns covering 90 percent of body, requiring extensive medical treatment and resulting in permanent injuries

Case name: Cephus B. Glenn v. AshTech Corporation

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina

Case No.: 8:17-cv-01487

Judge: Timothy Cain

Date of settlement: April 2, 2019

Attorneys for plaintiff: Dick Harpootlian, Christopher Kenney and Phillip Barber of Richard A. Harpootlian Law Office in Columbia; and Larry Marchant Jr. of Columbia

Attorneys for defendant: Amanda Bradley and Grenville Morgan Jr. of McAngus Goudelock and Courie in Greenville; Jeffrey Silverberg and George Hanna IV of Howser Newman and Besley; James Richardson Jr. of Richardson and Birdsong in Columbia; and John Engvall Jr. of Engvall and York in Houston, Texas

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