Wrongful Death and Electrical Burn – $2,225,000 settlement
Rob Kornfeld of Kornfeld, Trudell, Bowen and Lingenbrink, PLCC successfully
represented the estate of an deceased cable installer and his surviving
wife and two children as a Seattle wrongful death settlement lawyer, as
well as a surviving coworker in a contentious multiparty litigated matter
which settled on the first day of trial, October 11, 2010.
Defendants contended that the combined negligence of Plaintiffs and their
employer, Metzker Communications, were the sole proximate cause for this
tragic injury and death. The claim was made that Plaintiffs’ employer
agreed to take on this project, knew or should have know about the regulations
governing installation of cabling onto utility poles and, in turn, rented
the wrong type of a boom lift to complete the installation, namely, a
steel lift and not one with a fiberglass basket. Defendants also claimed
the Plaintiffs were the installers and operators of the lift and were
careless in its operation by their driving of it into the three phase
energized power lines above their work.
With the help of a Seattle wrongful death lawyer, plaintiffs contended
that the trees grew up through the existing cable and created a danger
or hazard preventing them from safely accessing and doing their work.
Plaintiffs contended that they were denied access by the growth of untrimmed
trees along the last cable run location. Photographs showed that Douglas
Fir trees had grown up and through the existing cable runs they were instructed
to attach a new fiber optic cable. Prior to the date of this tragedy,
Plaintiffs had completed nearly 3000 feet of fiber optic cable installation
without any safety issue, up until they encountered overgrown fir trees
at the end of the job.
No Defendant notified Plaintiffs of this tree hazard. No one did a prejob
survey and identified the hazard posed by the tree overgrowth. No one
suggested they would have the trees trimmed before the job started. Instead,
the park was determined to have the cabling completed within the next
two weeks before the opening of the park for the season sometime the first
week of June, 2007. Dangers were ignored by the park owners and operators,
including the enforcement of the park safety manual, all at the expense
of the lives and safety of Plaintiffs.
Defendants were Six Flags, the nationally recognized theme park, and Park
Management, LLC and its affiliated CNL partnerships which operate theme
parks in the greater Florida area, Western Telcom and Inter Tel Technologies,
Inc., the latter of which was recently acquired by Mitel a nationally
prominent cable installation and telecom company.
Plaintiffs were cable installers who were asked to install cable onto utility
poles owned by Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Unbeknownst to these untrained
and inexperienced workers asked to attach cabling on PSE utility poles
by Defendants and their employer, PSE was not consulted nor its permission
obtained by any of the parties in this action. Further, PSE’s and
other regulations in the state of Washington required the power to be
de-energized in May 2007 at the time of this tragedy. No Defendant contacted
PSE to obtain its consent to install cabling on PSE utility poles and
no Defendant took any action to ensure that all power was turned off before
Plaintiffs began to work from a boom lift and to install cabling per the
instructions of Defendants.
On May 21, 2007, the Plaintiffs were installing cable by strapping on the
fiber optic cable onto the existing cabling strung between PSE utility
poles. There were 4 other previous installations attached to the messenger
wire between the utility poles. Unfortunately, because the trees overgrew
these existing lines and denied them access to complete this work, a decision
was made to raise the boom lift up a bit higher and then bring the basket
down onto the branch to push it out of the way in order to access the
cable to continue the strapping of the conduit. In this process, the operator
lost his bearings in the trees and raised the lift too high making contacting
with the three phase distribution lines.
One worker was killed and a second was serious injured and suffered severe
burns over his body.
As a result of the failure of the Defendants to secure PSE consent, de-energize
the lines and trim the trees, which had obviously overgrown the existing
cable lines on the PSE utility poles on which Plaintiffs were told to
strap new fiber optic, Plaintiffs unknowingly were placed in harm’s
way and were asked to perform a job which was extremely dangerous. It
was unlawful to work within 10 feet of energized lines, a violation of
Washington and the National Electrical Safety Code. Plaintiffs did know
about these safety rules and Defendant park owners/operators knew or should
have known about the same rules but never enforced them for the safety
of all workers over whom they retained the right to control any such work
on their park property.
Simply put, Defendants should have consulted with PSE. Defendants should
have asked for permission and PSE’s consent to attach any cabling
onto its utility poles as required by industry practice and the regulations
governing this practice. PSE testified that it would have required the
power to have been de-energized and that the trees to have been trimmed,
had Defendants applied for PSE consent to install any cabling onto its
utility poles, prior to allowing any work on its poles. PSE had no idea
about the pirated and unlawful use of its utility poles on this and other
previous occasions by Six Flags and its contractors.
A more detailed analysis of the legal issues and the parties will be provided
in a follow up to this post from Rob Kornfeld, an experienced Seattle
wrongful death lawyer