Iowa explosion victims awarded $9.6 million
Inver Grove Heights attorney Gregory N. McEwen and his Iowa colleague, Don Beattie, have secured a $9.6 million verdict for two victims of an anhydrous ammonia tank explosion that occurred in Calamus, Iowa, in 2003.
The verdict consists of $3.8 million for the heirs of 68-year-old Bob Ryan, who died 13 days after the explosion, and $5.8 million for Nathan Nissen, who was 27 when he was injured. The men had just finished filling the tank when it ruptured, spilling 1,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia.
The verdict is primarily against Trinity Industries, which manufactured the tank. Other defendants settled prior to trial for $2.25 million and were found to be 20 percent negligent, meaning that they will recoup 80 percent of their settlement from Trinity, said McEwen. The $2.25 million is included in the $9.6 million verdict.
After the explosion Ryan dragged Nissen to an emergency water tank and held him underwater, then insisted that Nissen be airlifted first from the accident. Ryan was posthumously awarded a Lifesaving Award of Valor from Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
Nissen was burned over 51 percent of his body and spent 87 days in the hospital. His medical bills were about $487,000, said McEwen. Although he is back to work at the River Valley Cooperative, where he worked at the time of the explosion, he suffers from frequent infections and respiratory illness.
McEwen said he asked the jury to communicate with the defendants in a language they could understand by returning a large verdict and also told the jury an injury in Iowa was worth as much as an injury in Chicago or Minneapolis. He believed the rural jurors could relate well to the plaintiffs.
Minnesota Lawyer – August 21, 2006