In June 2018, 45-year-old Jesse Henson was killed while working at the Westar Energy Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys, Kansas.
Henson was on the 14th floor of the power plant to investigate a loss of steam with another worker, Damien Burchett. When the elevator door opened to the floor, they were engulfed in superheated steam and sustained fatal burn injuries.
Last week, Henson’s widow received a $222 million verdict, according to her attorneys at Arnold & Itkin.
According to the lawyers, the industrial accident was caused by a faulty relief valve inspected and modified by Team Industries Inc., a Texas-based Westar subcontractor. Team had recently rebuilt parts in three generation units but denied responsibility and tried to blame Westar and Henson.
The lawyers proved that Team not only identified the faulty release valve but suspected that it would fail at the coal-fired plant. Still, the company never took the steps that would have saved the lives of Henson and his coworker.
The jury found Team 90% at fault for the incident, while Westar, now part of Evergy, was 10% responsible. The jury awarded $222 million for Henson's physical and mental pain before he died, as well as compensation for his widow's loss of companionship and past and future suffering.
Henson was a veteran who also worked as a deputy sheriff at the local sheriff's department for five years. He also spent time as a lead deputy for the sheriff's search and rescue unit.
The relatives of Damien Burchett have filed a separate lawsuit over his death.