A jury returned a verdict last month of nearly $28 million in the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of a Duke Energy Ohio lineman who died while climbing a utility pole that collapsed and fell due to hidden underground decay. The case was tried in Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati).

Keith Jester was a senior lineman / trainer who climbed a utility pole with another utility worker when the pole broke below ground and fell on top of Jester, who was strapped to the pole. He survived for one hour and died of internal injuries. The Jester family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Utilimap Corporation, a division of Quanta Services.

Utilimap was hired by Duke Energy to inspect 30,000 poles in Southwestern Ohio. As a utility wood pole inspection company, Utilimap was obligated by contract to perform inspections of the poles for the safety of the public and utility workers and for the reliability of the electricity system. The inspection program occurred approximately 28 months before this fatality.

Evidence in the case revealed that Utilimap inspectors skipped the pole that failed without notifying Duke Energy. In addition, Utilimap billed and was paid for the skipped pole. Utilimap denied all fault and blamed Keith for his own death. 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 jury found no negligence on the part of Keith, who is survived by his wife and three children. Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, an Ohio firm, represented the family in this case.

Source: Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP

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