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Wrongful death lawsuit filed in accident that killed man in Buffalo Lake

OLIVIA — The family of Andrew Burnett say that he was wearing a body safety harness attached to a lanyard when he fell approximately 60 feet to his death while working Oct. 27, 2012, at the South Central Grain and Energy facility in Buffalo Lake.

The allegations are contained in a wrongful death civil lawsuit being brought by Burnett’s surviving spouse, Jill Burnett of New Ulm, and other next of kin, including his parents, Steve and Jan Burnett of Waseca.

Rescuers were unable to resuscitate Burnett, 28, of New Ulm and originally of Waseca, when they reached the scene of the workplace accident, according to a report issued at the time by the Renville County Sheriff’s Office.

The lanyard and a rebar hook — a component piece of it — are a focus of the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs allege that the victim’s injuries “were the result of certain defects in the lanyard and its component parts.’’

The lanyard was manufactured by Honeywell International of Delaware, doing business as Miller Safety System and Miller Fall Protection. Honeywell and Miller Safety are named as first defendant in the lawsuit.

The lanyard included a rebar hook manufactured by Pen Safe Inc., a firm in Ontario, Canada, which has been producing fall arrest equipment for more than 50 years. It has been named a second party defendant in the lawsuit.  

Burnett was working outside on an auger motor at the time of the accident.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs further allege that Burnett had been standing “upon one or more panels of wood, which were not safely secured to the structure, and were not of a material suitable to safely support him.’’

The lawsuit also lists CEEC Inc., of Wabasso, and Valley View Electric of New Ulm as defendants. Burnett was employed by Valley View Electric at the time. The company was a subcontractor to CEEC Inc., which was the general contractor for a construction project at the site.

The civil lawsuit was filed in District Court in Renville County. Attorneys representing defendants in the case are to meet with the court Dec. 11 in Olivia to schedule a possible trial.

The defendants aggressively deny the allegations in responses they have filed to the lawsuit.

Along with denying the allegations, Honeywell asserts the possibility that the damage was the result of negligence of third persons, “including plaintiff decedent, over whom Honeywell had no control and for whom it is not legally liable, and whose fault must be incorporated with that of all other potentially liable persons.’’

The lawsuit includes six counts. Five are aimed at Honeywell and include allegations of negligence, defective design, defective manufacture, and failure to warn of dangers.

The sixth count alleges negligence by CEEC as the party responsible for safety at the site.

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