Family awarded multi-million dollar verdict in Boeing employee's death

Updated: Aug. 25, 2017 at 4:55 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A federal jury has awarded the widow of a Boeing employee who died after a fall at the North Charleston facility a multi-million dollar judgment.

David Priester Jr. was 38 years old when he died in March 2013 following an accident at the plant, court documents states.

The jury awarded Priester's widow and two daughters a total of $8.8 million in compensatory damages for wrongful death and other claims, according to Motley Rice spokesperson Laura Thompson.

The lawsuit against SAR Automation stated Priester felt 18 feet through a mobile platform, sustained a traumatic brain injury and died 11 days later.

The suit alleged that SAR Automation modified a computer system without the knowledge of Boeing and its employees, causing a malfunction that created a gap between sliders used during the airplane manufacturing process. Priester fell through that gap, leading to his injury and death, the suit stated.

"This verdict sends a message to employers that men and women deserve to work in a safe environment," his widow, Lisa Priester, said. "My hope is that this tragedy will result in better worker protection at Boeing and other manufacturers in South Carolina. On behalf of David's family, I am so grateful that the jury vindicated David."

During the trial, the jury learned that Boeing contracted SAR as early as November 2012 to commission and install the new Cell 90 platform, a release from Motley Rice states.

The suit alleged that during installation, SAR failed to commission and install software that would have installed intended safety features, horns and emergency lighting designed to activate and warn employees of dangerous gaps.

If the installation had been completed, Priester's attorneys alleged, it would have prevented Priester's fall.

"According to live testimony of involved Boeing engineers, the original software designer, Intec Automated Controls, Inc., of Michigan and controls engineers, the removal of these safety features from the software created a 'manufacturing defect' that rendered Cell 90 'unreasonably dangerous,'" a release states.

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