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ARTICLE ID 2083
- ALLEGED NEGLIGENT HANGING OF PHONE WIRE - CERVICAL SPRAIN AND STRAIN - BULGING DISC AT L-4,L-5 - 15% DISABILITY OF OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICER.
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 plaintiffs 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 plaintiffs 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
plaintiffs chiropractor also testified that the plaintiff
suffered a 15% disability of the body as a whole. The plaintiffs
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 defendants 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 defendants
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. Plaintiffs expert neurosurgeon: Thomas Neuman of
Tampa. Plaintiffs expert chiropractor: Robert Tannebaum of
Tampa, Fla. Plaintiffs expert architect: Gene Barry of Tampa.
Defendants expert engineers: Ray Afeld of St. Petersburg and
James Wells of Tampa. Defendants orthopedic expert: James
Eckhart of Tampa.
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