We've probably all heard Sergeant Shultz from Hogan's Heroes bellow out emphatically: "I see nothing!" In McComas vs. AFC Industries, LLC, No. 12-0548 (W.Va. October 17, 2013), the employer attempted to invent a Sergeant Shultz-type defense in deliberate intent cases. Thankfully, the West Virginia Supreme Court rejected this attempt to avoid an employer's duty to conduct mandatory safety inspections.
The plaintiff, David McComas, was a welder by trade. His employer, AFC Industries, was a company that built railroad cars. McComas, joined by two other welders, were assigned to a part of AFC's plant that had been out of operation and all electrical power had been shut off. When McComas attempted to restart the power at an electrical box, an arc blast occurred. McComas was thrown to the floor, and despite wearing all of the required safety equipment including hat, goggles and gloves, he suffered severe burns to 25% of his body. It turns out that the electrical box had been installed over 50 years before this tragic incident and, incredibly, that AFC had never inspected it.