Family of man electrocuted at night club awarded $9M settlement

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The family of a man killed in 2009 by electrocution won a massive settlement in Travis County court.

On Friday, a jury found that the defendants — Luis Romero Construction, OK Corral Night Club, and Austin Energy — were negligent in the death of Jaime Membreno.

Membreno was applying stucco to the facade of the OK Corral Night Club when he made contact with an uninsulated power line — killing him.

The jury awarded the family $9.3 million in the settlement after determining that the high voltage power lines were dangerously close to the side of the night club.

The jury decided all three defendants shared liability along with the man killed. The power line in question was built to the code in 1975, but eventually fell out of compliance over time.

Liability assessed by jury (by percentage):

  • 34% Luis Romero Construction
  • 30% OK Corral Night Club
  • 26% Austin Energy
  • 10% Jamie Membreno

The National Electric Safety Code mandates a minimum power line distance of 7-and-a-half feet from the side of a building. In this case, it was revealed that the lines were more than two feet out of code.

A city spokesperson released this statement to KXAN:

“Both the City and Austin Energy consider the safety of its residents the number one priority.  Ten years ago, a private construction company at the direction of the OK Corral Night Club erected a metal scaffold within inches of a live electrical line in violation of OSHA standards, the National Electric Code and the City’s permit.  This resulted in the tragic and preventable death of Mr. Membreno.  The jury recognized this error in its verdict against both of those entities.

Austin Energy is an industry leader and abides by both the National Electric Safety Code (NESC) and its own design criteria requirements, which exceeds industry standards.  As an industry leader, we strive to ensure that the work that we do is as safe as possible and we continuously identify, report and correct any unsafe conditions. The Utility also seeks to improve the safety of their work and work environment by incorporating safety practices and requirements into work processes.”

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