Electrocution Lawsuit Over Downed Power Line Results in $4.4M Verdict

A South Carolina jury has awarded $4.4 million to a teenager who was severely injured after being electrocuted by a downed power line that failed to shut itself off as designed. 

The electrocution lawsuit was filed by Xavier Massey in the Greenville County, South Carolina Court of Common Pleas against Duke Power Co. for injuries sustained following a 2006 power line accident, which occurred when Massey was 13.

Massey was a passenger in an SUV that lost control and hit a Duke Power Co. pole during a rainstorm. The impact knocked three power lines down from the pole. Two of the lines automatically shut down as part of a safety feature, but the third line did not.

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After stepping out of the vehicle, Massey was electrocuted by the live power line, resulting in severe injuries to both feet, and wounds to a hand and elbow. He also was burned across 4% of his body, had several toes amputated, and is expected to require at least five more surgeries. Massey’s past medical expenses totaled more than $600,000, with estimated future expenses of $3 million.

The complaint alleged that the safety system on the power line, required by the National Electrical Safety Code, failed because one of the 65-amp fuses used by the lines at the time of the accident was too big.

Following the accident, Duke Power Co. declared the site protected by “anticipation of litigation” and claimed that they did not have to disclose information because it could be used in a pending lawsuit. However, the company failed to preserve the evidence from the scene, and the judge told the jury to consider any missing evidence as unfavorable to Duke, under a charge known as spoilation, unless Duke’s attorneys could provide a good explanation.

At trial, Duke Power Company attempted to argue that the teenager was partially responsible for his own injuries for not successfully avoiding the wires. However, the jury returned a verdict that declared Massey to be 0 percent responsible for his own injuries and awarded $4.4 million in damages.

According to a report by South Carolina Lawyers Weekly, the last offer before trial was $200,000 and the last demand was $1.5 million.


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