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Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit

June 11, 1991|JOCELYN Y. STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The widow of a man who was fatally injured in an electrical explosion at a Chatsworth frozen food company has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company and the maker of its electrical equipment.

Hazel Ann Schaefer is suing Chef America for an unspecified amount, alleging that the company used defective electrical equipment and caused the death of her husband, Keith Schaefer, 60.

Her husband, an electrical worker, was severely burned in an explosion July 25 at the company in the 9600 block of Canoga Avenue.

A spokesman for Chef America could not be reached for comment.

Shortly after the incident, company spokesman Paul Meraj said the explosion occurred in the electrical room about 10 a.m. as Schaefer and some other workers attempted to replace a breaker on the main electrical panel.

"Somebody dropped the main panel on some high-voltage wires," Meraj said. "There was a flash, and they were burned."

Keith Schaefer suffered second- and third-degree burns and later died of his injuries at Sherman Oaks Community Hospital.

Jose Medrano, 39, of Northridge and Evaristo Taladera, 19, of Burbank were seriously injured in the explosion.

The victims were private contractors and were not employed by Chef America.

Later that day, two Los Angeles Department of Water and Power workers suffered minor injuries in a second explosion that occurred as the two attempted to re-energize Chef America's equipment following the first incident.

In a lawsuit filed in San Fernando Superior Court, Hazel Schaefer alleges that the company's distribution switchboard, circuit breaker and other electrical products or systems were defective.

They "contained materials which caused them to generate an electrical fire during installation and/or contained a lack of certain components to make them an acceptable standard quality," the lawsuit reads.

General Electric Co., which the suit specifies as the manufacturer of the equipment, was also named as a defendant.

The suit asks for an unspecified amount to be awarded to Hazel Schaefer and her daughters, Janice Contreras and Joan Forster.

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