January 8, 2013

Burned Oakland man sues town, hospital

Edward T. Bishop files suit against Manchester and the MaineGeneral Medical Center.

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

An Oakland man who suffered serious burns last year when the fuel tank he was cutting in Manchester exploded in his face is suing the town and the hospital that owned the property.

Edward T. Bishop, 34, argues that his work on the property should have been supervised. He is seeking unspecified damages from MaineGeneral Medical Center and the town of Manchester, as well as Code Enforcement Officer Paul Mitnik.

Bishop, in a complaint filed in Kennebec County Superior Court, claims that negligence by the town and the hospital created the circumstances that led to his injuries when the fuel tank ignited.

"Defendants negligently failed to designate hazardous materials, which required specialized handling and disposal, which the plaintiff was unqualified to handle," Bishop's attorney, Peter Clifford, wrote in the complaint.

Bishop suffered second- and third-degree burns in the explosion that occurred on April 10 as he tried to cut the old fuel tank in half with a gas-powered saw.

According to a contract he signed in February with MaineGeneral Retirement Community, Bishop was hired to remove tires, metals, tanks and other debris from property the hospital owns on Foye Road in Manchester.

The property was used as a junkyard by a previous owner.

After the explosion, Bishop was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, then transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he remained for more than a week.

Bishop's complaint claims he was clearing the property in advance of MaineGeneral's planned construction project.

He says Mitnik, the code enforcement officer, visited the site with Bishop in January 2012 and "inspected the premises and directed (Bishop) to remove materials on the premises that were hazardous."

Bishop claims that Mitnik, the town and MaineGeneral failed to thoroughly inspect the site and warn Bishop that he would encounter flammable materials, such as the old fuel tank.

"As a result of the unreasonably dangerous premises, and the negligence and fault of the defendants, (Bishop) suffered severe and permanent injuries," the lawsuit alleges.

Clifford declined comment on the lawsuit Monday and MaineGeneral's attorney, Jonathan Brogan, did not return a call seeking comment.

Edward Benjamin, the attorney who represents Manchester and Mitnik, said his clients had little to do with the cleanup.

"The basic defense of Mr. Mitnik and the town is this was not property owned or controlled by the town," Benjamin said. "The allegation that Mr. Mitnik was supervising the work -- they vehemently deny."

Brogan, in court documents, denies Bishop's claims and says Bishop's contract protects MaineGeneral from responsibility. 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

ccrosby@centralmaine.com

 

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