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ARTICLE ID 29055

$________ INCLUDING $________ PUNITIVE AWARD - PERSONAL INJURY - UTILITY NEGLIGENCE - PLAINTIFF INJURED BY UNINSULATED GUY WIRE WHICH BECAME ELECTRIFIED - SIGNIFICANT ELECTRICAL BURNS OVER MOST OF BODY.

Bullock County, Alabama

The male plaintiff in this action contended that as he was attempting to remove a guy wire which had become hooked on the bumper of his car while it was parked at the defendant’s restaurant, an uninsulated guy wire came in contact with an electrified stinger wire, causing the plaintiff to sustain severe burns due to electric shock. The plaintiff maintained that the defendant utility was aware of a dangerous condition posed by the configuration of this guy wire and that such a condition had caused injury and death to others prior to this incident. The plaintiff named the Alabama Power Company, Outback Steakhouse and Hadmanco, the building owner, as defendants. The plaintiff settled with Outback Steakhouse and Hadmanco prior to trial for a confidential sum.

The plaintiff, a 48-year-old hunting and fishing guide, testified that he parked his car in a parking space without a cement curb stop in the parking lot of the Outback Steakhouse and then entered the restaurant. After the plaintiff left the restaurant and attempted to leave in his car, he realized that the guy wire cable supporting a nearby utility pole had become hooked underneath the front bumper of his car, preventing him from moving the vehicle. The guy wire did not have any yellow safety markings on it and it was not visible to the plaintiff when he first parked in the parking spot. The plaintiff related that he obtained a pair of pliers and vice grips he carries in his trunk and attempted to dislodge the guy wire from his bumper. The evidence revealed that the guy wire had been struck previously and was already frayed. As the plaintiff was trying to manipulate the guy wire in order to keep the frays from going into his tire, p 7 3 the guy wire suddenly came lose, touched the electrified stinger wire and sent ________ volts of current down to the plaintiff for a period of at least ten seconds by the defendant’s expert’s own admission.

The plaintiff suffered electrical burns over both his feet, calves, buttocks and both hands. The most severe burns, however, were on the plaintiff’s chest. The plaintiff spent 30 days in the burn unit following the incident and underwent skin graft surgery to his chest and left forearm. The plaintiff’s medical experts confirmed that the plaintiff sustained permanent damage to his left arm and hand in addition to the long-term effects of the burns over his body. According to their testimony, he has diminished grip, no sense of touch, and no feeling in his left hand since this incident. He incurred medical specials of approximately $________ and is no longer able to work as a hunting and fishing guide due to the nature and extent of his injuries.

The plaintiff is presently employed by the guide company to shuttle people back and forth from the airport and assist in grilling meats since he is no longer capable of performing his prior guide duties. The plaintiff could not establish a claim for wage loss or loss of future earnings due to the fact that the plaintiff worked for tips and was given room and board.

As to the defendant Alabama Power Company, the plaintiff contended that this defendant should have used a guy rod insulator on the guy wire instead of a grounding system. The plaintiff further alleged that Alabama Power Company was aware of the dangers of running a guy wire over an energized line and neglected to replace or retrofit it with a guy insulator. The guy insulator would have instantaneously terminated the power to the guy wire when it came in contact with an electrified wire.

The defendant Alabama Power contended that the grounding system in place on that particular pole was acceptable and that the plaintiff was responsible for his own injuries in attempting to dislodge the guy wire from his vehicle. The defendant contended that the plaintiff should not have touched the wire at all and should have alerted the authorities. The plaintiff countered that a reasonable person in the same situation would have attempted to dislodge the wire without assistance.

The defendant stipulated at trial that prior to this incident, it was aware that on limited occasions, guy wires had become energized causing injury and death. It also admitted, with regard to pole configurations similar to this pole, that using a guy rod insulator is safer than the grounding method in preventing current from flowing down the guy wire if it came in contact with a stinger wire.

The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $________, including $________ in compensatory damages and $________ in punitive damages.

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