GE fire results in sidelined workers and a lawsuit from residents

Posted on 8 Apr 2015 by Aiden Burgess

Thousands of workers have been left temporarily out of work and a lawsuit has been filed against General Electric (GE) after a fire blazed at their Louisville plant last week.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of the fire at the GE plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last week’s GE fire caused the shutting down of production at General Electric Appliance Park, after it started in a non-production building used for offices and storage.

Arson investigators in Louisville are investigating the GE fire and looking into why the sprinklers in the building as well as nearby fire hydrants didn’t work when the fire broke out on Friday morning.

The fire was contained on Saturday evening after nearly 200 firefighters struggled to put out the blaze.

Among the main repercussions of the GE fire is the uncertainty surrounding when thousands of the company’s workers will be able to return to work.

GE Appliance Park celebrated 60 year in 2013 - image courtesy of GE
GE Appliance Park celebrated 60 year in 2013 – image courtesy of GE.

A one-week waiting period for every 52 weeks exists in Kentucky before the workers can start collecting unemployment, meaning the General Electric employees will get nothing if just one week of work is lost.

General Electric spokesperson Kim Freeman said production will be shut down through this week as workers are moved to other offices and the rest of the facility is inspected.

The General Electric Appliance Park celebrated 60 years of operation in 2013 and celebrated the milestone with an open day to showcase the results of a $1bn investment in the site.

Lawsuit over GE fire

Another outcome of Friday’s fire is a lawsuit filed against General Electric by a resident who lives near General Electric Appliance Park.

The lawsuit claims residents affected by the imposed shelter-in-place order suffered harm from the “noxious plumes of black smoke” and “excessive amounts of particulate matter”.

Plaintiff Alex Ruiz lives 1.5 miles away from the scene of the plant fire, and filed the lawsuit this week in Jefferson Circuit Court.

The lawsuit claims the company was negligent in storing flammable material in its warehouse.

Mr Ruiz seeks a class action lawsuit on behalf of all who live within the shelter-in-place order and anyone else who was affected by the “smoke, soot, ashes or other physical remnants” of the fire, as read in and accordance to the suit.

The suit also stated that the nuisance of the “toxic and hazardous substances and fumes” in air and water and the shelter-in-place order have “negatively affected the life and health” of Mr Ruiz.

Mr Ruiz is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as a jury trial.

GE had celebrated the lean manufacturing pedigree of the site. Now time will tell just how good the GE fire disaster recovery plan is.