Yakima County has settled a lawsuit filed by a man seriously injured more than two years ago when he fell about 50 feet inside an unused county-owned water storage tank in Terrace Heights.
The county agreed to pay Michael Hanson $1.15 million in the settlement. Most of the amount will be covered by an insurance company for the contractor the county hired to clean the inside of the old tank on Morningside Drive.
The county’s portion of the settlement is $150,000.
Hanson, of Wilsonville, Ore., was employed by Bravo Environmental Northwest, a Portland firm that the county hired to clean the inside of the tank in preparation for returning the reservoir to operation. Hanson was one of four employees on top of the tank when a portion of a wooden deck on which he was standing collapsed.
The reservoir, more than a century old, had not been used for 16 years at the time of the mishap on June 21, 2010.
Hanson, now 44, suffered back and spinal injuries, a fractured rib, a punctured lung and other injuries.
He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he spent several weeks in intensive care, according to Vito de la Cruz, a Yakima attorney who participated in the case on Hanson’s behalf.
Yakima County was the only named defendant in the lawsuit Hanson filed after the county did not act on his administrative claim for damages. The contract between the county and Bravo provided that Bravo would indemnify the county in case of a lawsuit.
De la Cruz said the settlement emphasizes the need to assure a safe workplace.
“I think as a general rule, society values its workers and workers should not be exposed to unnecessary risk in the workplace. This is an example of a risk in the workplace that was overlooked and resulted in Mr. Hanson being critically hurt,” he said.
The county did not admit liability as part of the settlement.
Hanson filed a claim for damages with the county in the aftermath of his injuries. He sued the county in U.S. District Court in Yakima in April last year, leading to the settlement.