Plaintiff, a 35-year-old man, was acting as a guard at a large construction site at a power plant. One night, he heard some noises on the other side of a wall which protected the site. He climbed to the top of the wall to investigate the problem. When he got to the top, he grabbed onto a wire to help pull himself up. The wire was electrically charged. Plaintiff was immediately electrocuted and was thrown back to the ground with his forearm singed. He was taken to the emergency room where the only way to save the plaintiff’s life was to amputate the forearm.
The defense alleged that the accident was entirely the plaintiff’s fault since he had been carefully instructed by the owner of the power plant to not touch any of the wires on top of the walls. Further, the defendant power plant blamed plaintiff’s employer for the accident because the employer did not instruct the plaintiff to not touch the wires. Finally, the defendant claimed that the wire presented an obvious danger to any reasonable person.
John Winer was working for another law firm at the time of the case, but performed discovery and took depositions and helped to litigate the case.
The law firm took the position that, given the extreme risk of live high voltage wires, there should have been warning on the wall advising of the danger. In fact, there was a warning on the outside of the wall which would have kept potential intruders safe; however, there was no warning on the inside of the wall where someone like the plaintiff, who was just trying to do his job, would be warned of the extreme danger.
As to the negligence of the employer, the employer was not on site and so it would have no reason to know of this particular risk. The plaintiff admitted to having been told when he started the job that there were high voltage live wires extending around portions of the grounds, but no one told him that these particular wires were live and in his enthusiasm for wanting to do his job correctly and keep out any intruders, he temporarily forgot about the danger.
Facing a potentially large allegation of fault against the plaintiff, the case settled.
RESULT: Settlement on behalf of plaintiff of $450,000