When workers are injured on the job, workers’ compensation laws can help them get the money that they need to continue medical treatment and replace the wages they lose while they cannot work. The case of Andrew Blood, a former utility lineman at Xcel Energy, is an example of why these laws are so important.
On June 29, 2004, Blood was removing lines from a pole when it collapsed because of internal rotting that resulted from a fungus below the ground. This caused Blood to fall 25 feet and suffer injuries to his lower body that left him a paraplegic.
Because Xcel Energy shares the poles with Qwest Communications International, workers’ compensation laws did not allow Blood to sue his employer and he had to bring a lawsuit against the telecommunications company instead. During the trial, his attorney argued that Qwest Communications was negligent because it provided no maintenance for its poles and if this action had been taken, the rotting would have been detected.
“We put their own witnesses on the stand and they agreed that they had the obligation to establish a preventative maintenance program, but that never happened,” Mr. Blood’s attorney told Lawyers USA. “Any of these other poles could fall down, bring down lines and cause serious injury or death, and because the rot begins below ground, there is no way to know without inspection.”
The jury agreed with the plaintiff’s argument and awarded Blood over $21 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages. Qwest Communications appealed the award and the Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled that the jury’s decision was proper and that the company was negligent for failing to inspect its poles in the decades prior to Blood’s accident.
Blood told The Denver Post that he would like to see Qwest Communications finally implement an inspection program so that no other workers will suffer the fate that he did.