Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 27, 2013

Widow files suit in AK Steel death

Kenneth Hart
CNHI News Service

CATLETTSBURG — The widow and son of a worker killed in an accident last year at AK Steel’s Ashland Works have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the company.

The suit, filed earlier this month in Boyd Circuit Court by Sheena and Davan Shelton, also names several unknown defendants, including the manufacturers, maintainers and distributors of the conveyor belt and shaker assembly on which Shaun Shelton was killed on March 2, 2012.

AK Steel denies wrongdoing in Shelton’s death in its response to the complaint.

Shelton, 27, of Westwood, was an employee of Stein Inc., an AK Steel contractor. He died after he was accidentally pulled onto the conveyor belt. A preliminary investigation indicated workers were loading slag onto the conveyor when Shelton saw a piece of material on the belt that wasn’t supposed to be there, authorities said.

As he was attempting to retrieve the object, another worker inadvertently tripped the switch and turned the conveyor belt on, which caused Shelton to be dragged onto the belt and crushed between the conveyor and a piece of metal.

Shelton died of asphyxiation, Boyd County Coroner Mark Hammond said at the time.

In the suit, Sheena Shelton, administratrix of her husband’s estate, alleges the conveyor and shaker both were defective in design and created a substantial risk of injury to users because they lacked safety features, including guards that would have prevented Shaun Shelton from being pulled onto the belt and cutoff switches that would have allowed him to stop the machinery once he was pulled onto it.

The suit, filed by attorney Kyle R. Salyer of the Kirk Law Firm, also alleges AK Steel is liable in Shaun Shelton’s death because, as the owner of the property on which the accident occurred, it “allowed the machinery to be installed and maintained in such a fashion that it created a man-made, naturally occurring hazard to anyone on the premises.”

The complaint also alleges AK Steel, through its agents, servants and/or employees, “prevented paramedics from coming onto the property” in response to Shaun Shelton’s accident, which “caused or contributed to his death.”

In its response, filed by attorney Carl Edwards of Ashland, AK Steel specifically denies those allegations, along with any other claims the company in any way contributed to Shaun Shelton’s death.

The company cites a total of 19 defenses in the response, among them that Shaun Shelton “failed to exercise the requisite degree of due and reasonable care for his own safety and welfare,” and said failure was “a substantial factor” in causing or contributing to the accident.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney fees and court costs.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.