Many times in the settlement of a lawsuit money is paid by the wrongdoing party and there is nothing more. While that aspect of a settlement is critically important to victims of wrongdoing and their families, there can also be other good effects required in the settlement. That, of course, has to be negotiated between the parties. A prime example of this sort of thing involved a family in Spring, Texas. As part of a settlement with this family, whose children were badly burned by a loose guy wire, the Defendant CenterPoint Energy will inspect all 220,000 of its guy-wire installations in the Houston region. The company also agreed, as a part of its settlement, to launch a television campaign to raise awareness about potential safety hazards of broken or damaged guy wires like the ones that caused two children to be critically burned in February 2013. As most of our readers will likely know, a guy wire is a non-electrical tension cable used to stabilize a utility pole. It’s important to note that a guy wire should never be energized.
Christopher and Sarah Zarsky, the parents, filed suit against CenterPoint Energy and CenterPoint Energy Houston in a state court after two of their three children were burned last year. It was alleged in the lawsuit that a guy wire had come loose from its anchor in the ground and contacted energized components of a CenterPoint power line. It was further alleged that Christopher Zarsky had notified the company that a corroded guy wire had broken away from the underground anchor, leaving it to swing loose.
It was alleged further that, despite knowing about the loose wire and its proximity to the energized power lines, “CenterPoint failed to do anything to repair the loose guy wire or otherwise prevent it from becoming energized.” It was also alleged that CenterPoint management knew about the “extreme degree of risk” posed by insufficient insulators on its guy wires and by buried guy-wire anchors, but did nothing to correct “this systemic problem.”
The children, a 3-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, were playing in the backyard when the guy wire contacted the utility pole’s energized components. They were severely shocked, knocked unconscious and badly burned. Another child, a 7-year-old brother, was also in the backyard and was helping to watch his siblings. But he was out of range of the electric current. The injured children were taken by medical helicopter to Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, where they received burn treatment, including multiple skin grafts and multiple surgeries.
The confidential settlement reached last month, announced by CenterPoint Energy, included trusts in undisclosed amounts for all three children. While the two children have a long road ahead of them, they have a close and supportive family and the monetary settlement will greatly assist them. Incidentally, the family says the Shriner’s burn unit in Galveston did a tremendous job for the children. Importantly, from a safety standpoint, the public will also benefit from the settlement. The needed repairs uncovered by the inspections are expected to be completed by summer, according to the company.
CenterPoint also asks any person in the territory served by the defendant who sees a broken or damaged guy wire to call the company at 713-207-2222. Of course, folks should stay away from any downed or loose guy wire until it is repaired.
Anthony Buzbee, a lawyer with his main office in Houston, Texas, represented the family in this case. He did a very good job for his clients.
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