DBJ won a verdict of $21 million from a St. Louis jury for two U.S. Army reservists who died when their helicopter crashed after hitting unmarked power lines. Three Rivers Electric Cooperative was found responsible because the lines and their supporting structures were almost impossible to see and Three Rivers knew aircraft flew at low levels in the area.
A previous verdict of $5.25 million was overturned after the defense appealed. “We’re happy this utility corporation has once again been held accountable for its negligent actions,” said attorney Grant L. Davis, of DBJ.
The jury found that the defendant violated the industry standard of care when it failed to put marker balls on the power lines. The helicopter crashed after striking wires owned by Three Rivers 100 feet above the Osage River. Trees and vegetation obscured the supports and there were no marker balls on the lines. In addition, the power lines had oxidized to a color that blended in with the trees and the water. “One of our witnesses testified that if you were trying to camouflage the wires, you couldn’t do a better job,” said Davis.
Plaintiff’s attorneys also found evidence of a previous crash and numerous near misses. “We had a couple of eyewitnesses who not only saw the helicopter crash, but also saw a fixed wing plane strike the power lines in the same location,” Davis said.
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