Confidential Settlement in Electrocution Wrongful Death Case
A 16-year-old boy was electrocuted to death as he was holding an aluminum extension ladder for his father. The father and son were about to trim a residential tree as a favor for their local pastor. As the ladder was extended, it came into contact with a tree branch. That branch then made contact with a 7200-volt primary electric line which was approximately 10 feet away. An electrical circuit was formed which sent the voltage through the son’s body. His father later testified that immediately after the shock, his son fell to the ground, got back up and then fell to the ground again, eventually dying in his arms.
Andy Rossetti handled the case for Rossetti & DeVoto. Andy hired many experts for the case, including an electrical engineer and a master arborist. Rossetti used the experts to show that the path of electricity started at a small melted indentation found on the power line and traveled through the top of the contacting branch, into the melted aluminum divots in the ladder, down the burn marks on the branch and unfortunately to the burn wounds on the son’s hands and feet. This evidence completely destroyed all of the defendants’ contentions that it was the ladder itself that made direct contact with the power line.
The master arborist determined that the subject branch was approximately 11 years old and was actually a sapling from a branch that was previously negligently pruned by the defendants. That branch should have been pruned back to the trunk by the defendants but instead was pruned approximately 4 feet from the trunk which permitted the fast-growing saplings to sprout and come in close proximity to the power line. In addition, Andy proved through extensive discovery, that not only should the subject area have been pruned every four years, but that the defendants last pruning of the area occurred over 10 years before the incident. This not only violated New Jersey and National Codes on vegetation management in the area of power lines, but also the internal policies of the defendants themselves.
Although it was absolutely gut wrenching for this father to relive this incident during the litigation and lengthy mediation, Andy and his client firmly believe that holding them responsible will force them to make sure this never happens again.
While the settlement figure is confidential, it was a very significant settlement and certainly commensurate with the tragedy that occurred.