The combination of working at heights and failure to de-energize equipment proved tragic for a 28-year-old construction worker. The company responsible must now pay him $21.7 million as the result of a jury verdict.
A Maryland jury awarded the sum to Hugo Hernandez Palomino, who was paralyzed from the neck down after receiving an electric shock at a Potomac Electric Power Co. power station on May 6, 2013.
Palomino was working for a Pepco subcontractor, V&T Builders, which wasn’t named as part of the lawsuit. A V&T crew, including Palomino, was erecting scaffolding next to high-voltage transformers at a Pepco site in the Potomac, MD, area. The scaffolding was going up so Pepco workers could service equipment.
The V&T workers had been told the transformers were de-energized, which turned out not to be the case.
When Palomino received the electric shock, he was thrown eight feet into the air and landed on concrete, snapping his spine. He also suffered severe burns on his torso and some of his extremities.
Palomino sued Pepco for negligence. Among the claims in the lawsuit was that Pepco:
- negligently failed to turn off the electrical voltage that fed the facilities where Palomino was working
- didn’t properly ground the circuits, and
- failed to ensure that a qualified individual was supervising Palomino and the rest of the crew (Palomino wasn’t a qualified electrical technician).
Pepco says it accepted responsibility for the incident, but the company and Palomino failed to reach an agreement regarding compensation for his injuries.
The question of the amount of compensation went to a jury trial. The jury awarded Palomino:
- $19.8 million for past and future medical expenses
- $1.2 million for past and future lost wages, and
- $770,000 for non-economic damages, the maximum cap allowed by Maryland law.
Palomino now requires full-time medical care, including numerous machines to perform vital functions.