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$17M Wrongful Death Settlement for Crane Accident

By Brett Snider, Esq. on February 12, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The family of a man killed by a construction crane has reached a $17 million settlement with a Philadelphia steam plant owner.

Adam Nowak Sr., a 45-year-old father of five, was struck and killed by a 300-pound iron hook which fell from an industrial crane at Veolia Energy's Schuylkill Steam Plant in 2011, Philadelphia's WCAU-TV reports.

The wrongful death settlement is being called the largest ever in Philadelphia's trial court system. But would Nowak's family have fared better at trial?

'Largest Settlement' in Philadelphia Court

While no one can estimate a man's life in dollars and cents, a $17 million settlement is nothing to scoff at. (By comparison, when New York City police officers shot and killed a man on his wedding night, his fiancée and two children only received $3.25 million in settlement funds.)

Wrongful death settlements typically release the party accused of causing the death from liability, and prevent the family or estate from filing any future lawsuits against the party who pays to settle. This means Veolia won't be in court again over Nowak's death.

For the Nowak family, the settlement money will likely supplement the loss of income, support, and intangible affection that will be missed in Nowak's absence.

What Nowak's Estate Would've Had to Prove

If the family had chosen not to settle, they would have gone to trial on a claim that Veolia's negligence was the cause of Nowak's death. In a wrongful death case, a trial court must be convinced that the evidence presented makes it more than 50 percent likely that a person's death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of the defendant.

Veolia's legal advisors may have prompted the company to settle if they felt the case was likely to end up with a verdict against Veolia. Wrongful death jury verdicts can often result in hundreds of millions of dollars being awarded to surviving family members, so it likely benefitted Veolia to settle.

On the other hand, settling the case for $17 million also saved the Nowak family from reliving the horror of Adam's death. And a trial in this sort of case may have dragged on for months.

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