A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday awarded $350,000 to Clarence L. Barton, a Northern Virginia electrical engineer, who was severely burned in 1975 when an electrical control panel in a Northwest Washington office building exploded and shot flaming material over him.
A jury awarded another $25,000 to Barton's wife, Ruby, to compensate her for financial losses growing out of her husband's injuries and for the partial loss of his companionship.
The verdict was against the Pringle Electrical Manufacturing Co. of Fort Washington, Pa., the firm that made the electrical switch whose safety mechanism allegedly failed to operate properly.
Barton was employed as a building enginner by 1100 Twenty-First Street Associates, the owner of the building at the time of the accident, which occured on the penthouse floor on Sept. 17, 1975, The building is at 2101 L St. NW.
According to testimony, Barton was adjusting a switch on the panel that controlled air conditioning and heating in preparation for taking over the building from the contractor, who was nearing completion of his work.
Barton testified that as he took the switch into his right hand, a jet of flame shot from the control box, spewing molten metal over the right side of his body. He suffered first, second-and third-degree burns over between 30 and 40 percent of his body, according to testimony.
For more than a year, Barton underwent skin-grafting surgery and treatment for burns at the Washington Hospital Center. He suffered a 20 percent permanent disability as a result of the burns, witnesses testified.
Barton testified that he suffers constant pain from hypersenstive skin on his face, neck, arms, hands and torso, where skin from other parts of his body his been grafted.
Barton, who lives in Woodbridge, Va. Testified that he must now hire men to do household repairs because he cannot handle tools.