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Hillsborough County

The plaintiff, age 38 at the time, claimed he suffered cervical sprain and strain and a bulging lumbar disc as a result of a fall allegedly caused when he walked into a telephone wire which was allegedly negligently hung too low. The defendant telephone company asserted that it did not hang the wire in question. The plaintiff, an off-duty Tampa police officer, testified that he was working part-time as a security guard at a Tampa hotel which was under construction. At approximately 2 a.m., the officer said he was making a routine inspection of the hotel parking lot when he walked into a wire hanging approximately six foot off the ground. The wire hit the officer in the face, he became entangled, fell backwards, struck his head on the parking lot and lost consciousness, according to his testimony. The plaintiff said he sought medical treatment the following day and was subsequently hospitalized for diagnostic testing. Medical specials were submitted at $________. The plaintiff also testified that he missed promotions within the police department and lost approximately ________ hours of work each year since the ________ accident, as a result of his injuries. The plaintiff’s treating neurologist testified that the plaintiff suffered cervical sprain and strain and a bulging disc at L-4,L-5 as a result of the fall and will suffer permanent residual back and neck pain from the injuries. The plaintiff’s chiropractor testified that the plaintiff would only be able to work approximately five more years with the police force before the lumbar disc injury made it impossible to perform his duties as a police officer. The plaintiff’s chiropractor also testified that the plaintiff suffered a 15% disability of the body as a whole. The plaintiff’s expert architect testified that the phone wire was negligently hung between two poles approximately six feet from the ground, when applicable ordinances and safety codes required that it be at least ten feet from the ground. The plaintiff introduced a photograph, taken the day after the fall, which showed the wire hanging approximately six feet from the ground. A police officer, who was a former employee of the defendant and was familiar with the type of wire it used, testified that in his opinion the wire in question belonged to the defendant phone company. This opinion was based on the type of wire used, its color, shape and the way it was hung, according to the officer. Two engineers testified for the defendant that, although the wire which struck the plaintiff was a phone wire, it was not hung by the defendant. The defense experts asserted that many contractors and subcontractors hang phone wires for the projects on which they are working. The opinion of the experts was based on an examination of the photograph depicting the wire, and the accident scene, according to their testimony. The defense experts said that "J" hooks located on the telephone poles in the area where the plaintiff fell, indicated that the defendant’s phone lines in the area were being hung much higher than the subject line. They also testified that the defendant company hung its lines on "J" hooks whereas the subject wire was hung in a different manner. The defendant’s orthopedic expert testified that, based on an independent medical exam, the plaintiff suffered a minimal cervical sprain in the fall, but that his disc injuries were related to normal degenerative changes. Sessler vs. vs. General Telephone of Florida, case no. 89-________, Judge John Gilbert, 10-23-91.

Attorneys for plaintiff: Brett Whitaker and Joseph Fritz of Tampa; Attorney for defendant: Cody Davis of McFarlane & Ferguson in Tampa. Plaintiff’s expert neurosurgeon: Thomas Neuman of Tampa. Plaintiff’s expert chiropractor: Robert Tannebaum of Tampa, Fla. Plaintiff’s expert architect: Gene Barry of Tampa.

Defendant’s expert engineers: Ray Afeld of St. Petersburg and James Wells of Tampa. Defendant’s orthopedic expert: James Eckhart of Tampa.

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