BANGOR – A Superior Court judge has awarded a local man nearly $5 million in damages from Central Maine Power Co. for injuries he suffered six years ago in an electrical accident at a Penobscot boatyard.
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy found that CMP caused the accident because the power line was more than 15 feet closer to the ground than it should have been.
Murphy awarded Bryan Smith, 24, a total of $4.89 million – $3 million in damages for loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, more than $1.1 million in lost earnings, and $783,000 for past and future medical and rehabilitation expenses.
“The accident was caused by the fact that this 35-foot, 4-inch mast, with its butt end held three feet off the ground at an angle of less than 90 degrees, hit a power line that was set at 30 feet, and not at 45.5 feet, as required by law,” Murphy concluded in a decision dated Nov. 3.
A spokeswoman for CMP declined Monday to comment on the decision.
Smith, who then lived in Bucksport, suffered life-threatening injuries on Oct. 31, 2002, when the mast on a sailboat he and William Stevenson were moving connected with a high-voltage power line. Stevenson, age unavailable, of Bucksport was posted on top of the boat when the mast connected with the 34,500-volt power line, according to a report published Nov. 1, 2002, in the Bangor Daily News.
Smith was on the ground operating a small custom-built crane at the Devereux Boatyard on Route 166 when the accident happened. The electricity surged down the boat and burned through the crane wire and into the controller that was being held by Smith.
Stevenson had let go of the mast just before it landed on the wires, according to the BDN. He was treated for minor injuries the day of the accident.
Attorneys Lisa Cohen Lunn of Bangor and Barry Mills of Ellsworth filed the lawsuit in July 2007. A jury-waived trial was held in July in Penobscot County Superior Court.
“Bryan is an amazing young man and both Barry Mills and I are very happy for our client that the court ruled in his favor and found that CMP was negligent,” Lunn said last week. “Also, Bryan has extremely supportive parents who have been there for him every step of the way.”
Smith’s goal since childhood had been to be an airplane mechanic in the U.S. Air Force. Murphy found that although his dream had been deferred temporarily, “it was likely that he would return to the Air Force” if he had not been electrocuted.
At the time of the accident, according to the judge’s decision, Smith recently had been medically discharged from the U.S. Air Force because of a foot injury that required surgery. He had to be medically cleared for a year before he could return to military service.
Smith spent two months in the hospital after the boatyard accident and endured many painful surgeries and procedures, the judge found. He had multiple skin grafts, lost his right big toe and the right metatarsal bone in his foot. As a result, he has a permanent limp and should not perform work that requires standing, according to testimony cited by the judge
In addition, he has a loss of feeling in the fingers of his left hand and its function is much diminished, Murphy found. Smith also has significant neurocognitive defects, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Murphy agreed that he had “sustained a 42 percent whole body permanent impairment injury as a result of his electrocution.”
CMP has until Dec. 5 to file a motion to appeal the decision.