$7 Million – Negligent Maintenance

Hunsicker v Southern California Edison‚ Pole Maintenance Company

FACTS:

On Aug. 6‚ 2005‚ plaintiff Hunsicker was driving home from work in his truck on San Jacinto Avenue in Perris when a thunderstorm struck. During the storm‚ 30 Southern California Edison wood utility poles snapped and fell onto the road. One of the 65-foot poles landed on the cab of plaintiff’s truck‚ crushing its roof and trapping the plaintiff in his truck for over 3 hours. Live electrical wires draped across the truck prevented nearby rescue crews from extracting Hunsicker or providing him treatment for his injuries‚ a nearly-severed leg and a shattered arm.

Plaintiff contended that Edison’s wooden power poles had been severely decayed from termites and mold‚ and were thus vulnerable to collapse in moderate winds. Plaintiff also alleged that Edison’s pole maintenance subcontractor‚ Pole Maintenance Company‚ negligently inspected and treated the wood poles‚ and failed to report to Edison when poles needed to be replaced. As an area often subjected to intense summer storms and "microbursts" (including Santa Ana winds)‚ Plaintiff established that Edison was aware of pole failures in the area during storms but neglected to replace them in a timely manner or otherwise stabilize poles that were vulnerable to collapse.

Defendants contended that they should not be responsible for the effects of a freak storm that exhibited intense microburst winds in excess of 80 mph‚ and that all but a few of the poles exceeded the required windload rating for poles of that type. Edison further argued that any negligence in the inspection or treatment of the poles would exclusively be the fault of its subcontractor‚ Pole Maintenance Company‚ who was hired to conduct pole inspections and determine interior deterioration and weakness.

Pole Maintenance Company argued that it followed the procedures and rating criteria it was provided by Edison and that Edison had neglected to replace or repair deteriorated poles because of plans to upgrade the entire line in the area in the future. Edison had failed to do such an upgrade by the time of the accident.

INJURIES:

The plaintiff suffered above-knee leg amputation with seven surgeries. Plaintiff’s right arm was crushed‚ resulting in a compound/comminuted fracture‚ and his right thumb was severed and reattached.

MEDS:

$530‚000; Future MEDS: In excess of $2 million; Future LOE: In excess of $700‚000.

RESULT:

The case settled three weeks before trial for $7 million.

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