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Graphic Packaging settles lawsuit over workplace accident

TEXARKANA, Texas (From news reports) -- A lawsuit stemming from a 2019 workplace accident at Graphic Packaging has been resolved with a confidential settlement.

Montgomery "Monte" Crompton was blasted with 200-degree steam for nearly a minute on his face, upper torso, legs and back while working to repair a hole in a blowdown header in the mill's powerhouse Jan. 16, 2019, according to a complaint filed in June 2020. The complaint against Georgia-based Graphic Packaging alleges proper safety precautions and the mill's own procedures were not followed.

The complaint was filed by the Smith Weber firm of Texarkana in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III entered a stay in the case last week in response to a joint motion by the plaintiff and defense informing the court of their intent to settle.

Steam had been escaping from a hole in the header for months at random intervals and concern for worker safety led to a decision to install a steel patch, the complaint states. Before installation of the patch began, Crompton expressed concern that steps to keep steam from escaping through the hole had not been taken.

Crompton alleges a supervisor told him and the two others assigned to work on the patch that the hole had been isolated and no danger existed.

"The time of the event was approximately 1:56 p.m., and though in a state of semi-consciousness, with the help of his co-workers Monte walked a distance of approximately two hundred (200) yards to the maintenance shop with burned flesh peeling from his body," the complaint states. A company nurse allegedly had to cut his clothing from his body.

After being treated at Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana, Crompton was airlifted to the burn unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

"At that time, the burns to Monte's face had so distorted his appearance that he was unrecognizable even to his immediate family," the complaint states.

Crompton remained in a medically induced coma for 22 days and was determined to have third-degree burns covering 45 percent of his body, according to the complaint.

Michael Smith of Smith Weber said Crompton is lucky to have survived the accident, though he is now disabled.

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