In Darlington County, South Carolina, a jury awarded a record amount of money to a family who lost their son after a high voltage power line landed in their driveway, killing their son.
On May 2, 2003, 21-year-old Allen Toney of Hartsville, South Carolina, returned home after a storm to find a utility pole had fallen near his home, and that a power line was blocking his driveway at chest height. The pole had been down for three hours by the time Toney attempted to remove the line from the driveway, when he was electrocuted to death after touching the line.
Emergency responders rushed the young man to Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center, where he was awake and responsive. However, the damage that the 13,200 volts of electricity did to his heart caused him to pass away about two hours after the electrocution occurred.
In the wrongful death case, South Carolina wrongful death attorneys presented the jury with the argument that the power company, Progress Energy, was negligent in the upkeep of the utility pole in question. The company received numerous notifications that the pole was a hazard in the months before the incident, and did not return phone calls regarding the pole in the hours after it fell.
The jury deliberated for less than a day before awarding Mary Washington, Allen’s mother, with $3.5 million in actual damages and $5.5 million in punitive damages – they concluded that the power company was negligent in their treatment of the dangerous utility pole and that their negligence caused Toney’s death. It is the largest wrongful death settlement in the history of Darlington County.