4th District Appellate Court Reverses Open and Obvious Defense

 In Personal Injury Blog

open and obvious electrocutionA recent appellate court decision may help future plaintiffs by limiting the application of the open and obvious defense in personal injury cases.

Prosecuting a Claim for Death or Injury by Electrocution

Over the years, GWC has consistently obtained significant recoveries for individuals injured by contact with, or activities in proximity to, overhead power lines.  These cases have resulted in numerous multi-million-dollar settlements for clients and their families, including a recent $8,000,000.00 settlement for the family of a man who died by electrocution when he was simply standing near a metal ladder being used by his neighbor who was on the ladder trimming his own tree.  These individuals range from a union tradesman injured during the course of his work to a young boy electrocuted while climbing a tree in a neighbor’s backyard.

To obtain these successful results, GWC had to overcome a defense doctrine that often defeats such claims.  It is called the open and obvious defense.  Utilities and contractors often succeed in convincing courts to dismiss power lines cases, arguing that the danger was open and obvious and therefore they owed no legal duty to the injured party. GWC has avoided this outcome by aggressive investigation and discovery and utilizing a team of experts from engineers to arborists to prove the defendant’s conduct violated safety codes and standards, negating the open and obvious defense.

4th District Appellate Court Reverses Open and Obvious Defense

A recent decision by the 4th Dist. Appellate Court is a very favorable case for plaintiffs and will limit the application of the open and obvious defense in the future.  In the case of Fox v. Ameren, the court reversed a judgment for the defendant utility, which was entered based upon the open and obvious defense.  The court said that the recognition of the danger was a factor that the jury could consider to possibly reduce damages, but it would not bar the action from proceeding to trial.

The plaintiff in Fox based his complaint in part on a law known as the Public Utilities Act.  The Act, among other things, creates a private right of action against a utility company (such as an electric company) when the company violates the Act and someone is injured as a result.  While not all electrical injury cases are covered by this law, the Public Utilities Act –where it applies – is a powerful tool that can be utilized to maximize the damages that an injured plaintiff can recover.  In Fox, the court found that the plaintiff stated a good claim under the Act, and that, because the Act stated that the defendant owed a duty, no analysis under the “open and obvious” doctrine was necessary regarding the duty question.

40+ Years of Experience Representing Electrical Injury Victims and their Families

GWC’s experience with electrical injuries includes handling cases covered by the Public Utilities Act.  Employing a thorough investigation to uncover any potential violations of the Illinois Commerce Commission’s rules and regulations, GWC uses the Act where it applies – along with all other tools available in each particular case – to obtain full and fair compensation for our clients.

GWC recognizes that the law is ever evolving, and we closely review decisions by Illinois Appellate Courts to determine how litigation approaches can best adapt to the legal requirements of the most recent case law and statutes.  In fact, our Appellate Department, led by Attorney Kirsten Dunne, has been instrumental in obtaining significant appellate decisions in favor of plaintiffs, particularly in construction cases.

Successful outcomes require aggressive investigation of the facts, coupled with a thorough knowledge of the legal principles applicable to a particular case.  Our lawyers must be well-versed in both facts and law.  The training our lawyers receive, along with the atmosphere of collaboration that exists at GWC, addresses both expectations.  Our clients deserve no less, and excellent representation is what we strive to provide in each and every case we handle.

Have You Been Injured in an Electrocution Accident?

If you or your loved one has been injured in an electrocution accident, contact the attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers.

With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier personal injury and workers’ compensation law firms in Illinois. Our firm takes pride in fighting for its clients and their families in all types of personal injury cases, including those involving wrongful death, nursing home abuse, motor vehicle collisions, workplace accidents, construction negligence, and medical malpractice.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of GWC’s lawyers, call our office at (312) 999-9999 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.

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