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Our client was sent to repair a high voltage three-phase transmission line with several co-workers. The supervisor instructed our client to cut and splice new cable into the line. He tested both ends of the cable to make sure it was de-energized. He then waited for word from his supervisor that the circuit was energized so that he could match the three-phases of the cables and complete the splice. The process of energizing the cables involved communication between three separate individuals located in three remote locations. The central figure in the procedure was the supervisor/dispatcher, who coordinated the actions of a switchman who was to energize the circuit at the power source and our client, who was waiting to match the three phases of the circuit in the location of the repair. Unfortunately, the employer’s method of communication was the use of telephones, rather than three-way radios which would allow all participants to hear what the other was doing. The danger of electrocution associated with this method of communication had been specifically expressed to upper management by a supervisor six months previously when men were shocked during a similar procedure. Not only was the concern raised, but the recommendation that three-way radios be used was ignored.
When the switchman at the power source had difficulty energizing the circuit, the dispatcher told our client to cancel the job, cover the ends of the three-phase cables, and return to the office. However, the dispatcher failed to tell the switchman, who kept trying to energize the circuit. Unfortunately, the switchman succeeded in energizing the line just as our client placed a temporary protective covering on the cables, which resulted in his electrocution.
Our electrical engineering expert opined that the conduct of our client’s employer was not only unreasonable, but amounted to a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of our client, and occurred under circumstances in which there was a substantial likelihood of injury to him. The defendant’s expert opined that the procedure was not dangerous if followed appropriately, and in any event, our client’s conduct in removing his insulated gloves was the proximate cause of his death.