A Darlington County SC jury returned a verdict of $9 million after finding Progress Energy responsible in the wrongful death of 21-year-old Allen Toney of Hartsville.
According to a press release, the jury awarded Mary Washington, the victim’s mother, $3.5 million in actual damages and $5.5 million in punitive damages. Toney died as the result of being electrocuted by a downed power line.
According to testimony, on May 2, 2003, a storm in the Hartsville area caused a utility pole, owned and maintained by Progress Energy, to fail. The pole, fell at approximately 6:30 p.m., leaving a live power line carrying 13200 volts hanging chest high across the driveway. According to witnesses, at around 9:20 p.m. Toney arrived at the home where he came into contact with the energized power line.
Toney came in contact with the power line while trying to move it from his driveway.
Further testimony revealed that Toney appeared to be locked to the power line “while balls of fire pulsed down the wire from the transformer and into his body.“ The line melted, leaving him face down in the driveway. EMS was dispatched and arrived on the scene shortly after the incident and transported Toney to the Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center.
Testimony from EMS workers and hospital personnel revealed that while Toney sustained catastrophic burn and electrical injuries, he initially responded to treatment, and was, in fact, responsive to questions asked by medical staff. While arrangements were being made to transport Toney to the Augusta Burn Center, he passed away at approximately 11:15 p.m. due to cardiac arrhythmia due to complications of the burn and electrical injuries.
Attorneys presented evidence that Progress Energy was negligent in responding to numerous inspection notifications of the hazardous condition of the utility pole in the months prior to the incident. They also presented evidence that Progress Energy was negligent in responding to numerous phone calls made to the Progress Energy Call Center prior to the electrocution incident.
Those calls provided notification and warning to Progress Energy about the downed power line situation and the dangerous conditions present. Based on the verdict, the jury found that Progress Energy was negligent and that their negligence caused the tragic death of Toney.
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