$5.4 Million Recovery for a Waste Recovery Worker

Segundo Orellana was a hard working 40-year-old man, a respected employee of a waste management company in Queens, NY. He reported to work every day at 3:30 AM, opened the concrete building with the key entrusted to him by his boss and would regularly turn on the light switch. He would then separate the different types of garbage that was transported to the building by another company that picked up the garbage from commercial businesses. On one fateful and tragic day, Mr. Orellana did what he always did, but unknown to him, there was a cloud of flammable gas in the building because 500 aerosol cans had been picked up and crushed in the rear of one of the garbage trucks. The cans were squashed and punctured and when the load was placed in the building the gasses were released. When Mr. Orellana turned the light switch on that day, static electricity caused a spark that ignited the gasses and a fire and explosion occurred, knocking the concrete building down and more significantly, burning more than 75% of Mr. Orellana’s body, limbs, and face.

Alan B. Leibowitz was successful in recovering from (1) the commercial business that wrongfully placed the hazardous materials (the aerosol cans) into the garbage dumpsters, (2) the garbage company that picked up the cans and placed them in the building even though the workers heard the hissing of gasses escaping and had seen some loose cans at the commercial business, and (3) the manufacturer and distributor of the cans for failing to place adequate warnings on the cans and the boxes in which they were transported regarding the dangerous nature of the cans. This was a product liability theory.

While Mr. Orellana suffered greatly, at least he recovered a monetary award which provided for his future health care and financial security for himself and his family.


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