Electrical Utility Company Pays $ 60 Million To Settle Ohio State Case Brought On Behalf Of Minor Electrocuted By Power Line Several Days After Hurricane Sandy Storm
On Nov. 1, 2012, twelve year old G.T. was severely injured by a downed power line that dangled within reach -fully energized - over a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. The power line, which was at least 60 years old and already deteriorated, was further damaged by the high winds experienced in the Cleveland area from remnants of Hurricane Sandy in late October of that year. The power line was part of the electric distribution system owned and operated by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI). Although CEI had received a number of complaints regarding that power line in the wake of the storm, it remained fully energized for several days after the storm blew through the area.
While walking with her sister, J.T., and a friend, G.T. reached up and touched the wire. She was immediately electrocuted, suffering severe burns and a profound brain injury, and she ultimately suffered a partial amputation. Her lifelong medical care was projected to cost around $ 23,000,000.00. J.T. also suffered physical injuries in the incident as well as emotional harm from watching her sister's electrocution.
On Jan. 2, 2013, G.T.'s mother filed an action against a number of defendants, including CEI and First Energy Corporation, the City of Cleveland, and Police Officer Gary Steigelmeyer, in the Ohio Court of Common Pleas for Cuyahoga County. The action was assigned to Judge Janet R. Burnside.
According to an April 22, 2016 news article by Ed Callek of Fox8 Cleveland, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay the family $ 700,000. The claims against CEI and First Energy, however, proceeded over the next several months. On July 18, 2016, CEI filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims, denying liability for G.T.'s electrocution. CEI argued that it had met its duty to plaintiffs in (1) maintaining, constructing, and inspecting its electric distribution system (including the electric wire that caused plaintiffs' injuries), and (2) responding to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy (including the downed wire at issue). On Aug. 15, 2016, plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to the motion, maintaining that the power line in question was part of an antiquated electric distribution system. Plaintiffs argued that CEI failed to exercise the standard imposed by law upon it, namely, the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its business.
On Sept. 11, 2016, a notice of settlement of G.T.'s claim against CEI was filed. Although the amount of the settlement was not set out in the common pleas court filings, the information was available in the Cuyahoga County Probate Court. On Sept. 15, 2016, G.T.'s mother, Glinda Thomas, filed an application to settle a minor's claim, in case no. 2016 GRD 214020. Under the terms of that settlement agreement, defendants agreed to pay $ 60,000,000.00. After payment of attorney fees and litigation expenses, $ 34,067,963.37 would go into a trust account for G.T.'s benefit. Her sister J.T. would receive $ 400,000.00 in a trust account. Glinda Thomas would receive $ 4,000,000.00.
Plaintiffs were represented by Romney B. Cullers of The Becker Law Firm (Cleveland, Ohio). Defendants were represented by Kevin D. Boyce, Jeffrey Saks, and
Michael S. Quinlan of Jones Day (Cleveland, Ohio), as well as Thomas l. Michais and Lindsey Sacher of Caifee Halter Griswold LLP (Cleveland, Ohio).
Lexis Advance subscribers may view the complete JV summary here: G.T., a minor, et al. v. First Energy Corporation, et al; 2016 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 7487
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