Wife of electrocuted worker files wrongful death lawsuit

Two years after her husband was electrocuted at the Cohen Recycling Center, the widow of Geoffrey S. Garnett has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Garnett, 33, a welder from Somerville in Preble County, died Oct. 16, 2014, when he was electrocuted while helping employees replace a metal roof of an electrical transformer substation at 5101 Farmersville West Carrollton Road.

Heather Garnett brought the suit on the two-year anniversary of her husband’s death in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. The defendants named are Metal Shredders Inc., Cohen Brothers Inc., DP&L, Luke Huggins of Metal Shredders and 20 John Does.

Garnett’s wife is asking for a jury trial on five counts for the “injuries and damages he sustained and pain and suffering he experienced prior to his death and a wrongful death claim for the benefit of his heirs at law and/or next of kin who have or claim to have suffered damages arising out of and as a result of his death.”

Heather Garnett’s attorney did not wish to comment publicly about the case. No lawyers are listed in court records for the defendants. A Cohen company spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced citations for alleged safety violations that played a role Garnett's death.

Of the nine violations listed, eight were categorized as serious and one was originally listed as willful but amended to a repeat offense. The initial penalty amount of $115,000 was negotiated to $63,250, according to OSHA online records.

Additionally, the federal agency issued Cohen Brothers, Metal Shredders’ parent company, with three serious safety violations for failing to train employees in electrical safe work practices. The proposed penalties of $21,000 for those violations was negotiated to $17,000.

In April 2015, Cohen company spokesman Adam Dumes called OSHA’s finding incorrect and unfounded.

“We strongly dispute the citations but are continuing to cooperate with OSHA to bring about the withdrawal of the citations,” Dumes said in a statement. “We remain deeply saddened by this tragic loss. We consider all employees of the Cohen companies to be part of the Cohen family.”

The complaint alleges that Garnett “contacted or came in proximity to an energized electrical line causing him to sustain an electrical shock, internal and external burns, and multiple other serious injuries that ultimately resulted in his death.”

The lawsuit also alleged that inferior testing equipment may have played a role: “(Garnett) was informed or made to believe that this electrical line had been properly tested to confirm it was de-energized when in fact the live line tool voltage tester used was approximately 15 years old and had not been removed from service after two years as required.”

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