Cincinnati.com, a USA Today Network partner, reports that Keith Jester, a 43-year-old senior lineman and trainer who worked for Duke Energy, was climbing a utility pole with another worker in 2014 to remove some lines when the pole cracked at the base. Jester and the worker fell 20 feet and Jester became trapped beneath the broken pole. He was transported to Bethesda Arrow Springs hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The other worker was injured, but survived.
Utilimap, a subcontractor for Duke Energy, was responsible for keeping the poles inspected and in good repair. Court documents revealed that Duke had hired Utilimap to inspect 30,000 wooden utility poles, but the one that collapsed had not been checked. The pole had been compromised by decay concealed underground.
Jester’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Utilimap, and on June 7, was awarded $27,359,444.
“At the end of trial, the jury found Utilimap 100 (percent) negligent in failing to inspect the pole and failing to notify Duke Energy,” the law firm representing the family said in a statement.
On June 14, the suit will go before a jury once again to move forward into the punitive damage phase.
“We are pleased that the case is finally coming to a conclusion,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Sally Thelen. “Sadly, we lost one of our teammates that day, and had another one seriously injured. Duke Energy will continue to focus on the safety of our customers, communities and employees; safety is paramount in all we do each day.”