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JURY AWARDS $20M FOR ELECTROCUTION

Nov 22, 2003

By GARY McELROY
Staff Reporter - Mobile Register

BellSouth lineman was killed in 2001 while working on a road-widening project in Saraland

A Mobile County Circuit Court jury on Friday awarded $20 million to the family of a BellSouth lineman who was electrocuted in September 2001.

Jurors impaneled to hear the wrongful death case against Alabama Power Co. deliberated for about five hours Friday before delivering their verdict to Circuit Judge Herman Thomas.

Court officials said the victim in the case, Ben Brackett, 23, was an employee with BellSouth on Sept. 26, 2001, when he came in contact with an energized, uninsulated power line.

According to testimony during the five-day trial that started Monday, the line was carrying 7,200 volts of electricity. When Brackett touched it, it killed him.

Mobile attorney Skip Finkbohner and his father, George Finkbohner Jr., represented Brackett's family in the case.

In September, Skip Finkbohner joined the firm of Cunningham, Bounds, Yance, Crowder and Brown, on Dauphin Street in Midtown.

Attorney Luckett Robinson of the Mobile firm of Hand Arendall, along with members of the Birmingham firm of Balch and Bingham, represented Alabama Power.

Company attorneys were unavailable for comment Friday evening, but Alabama Power spokesman, Bernie Fogarty, later issued a brief statement.

"While we are relieved to have this matter settled in court," Fogarty said, "our thoughts and prayers are still with the Brackett family."

According to court records, a road-widening project along John Kidd Road in Saraland required both the power company and the phone company to relocate and de-commission some of their respective lines and poles in the area.

Alabama Power personnel worked along the road about a month before Brackett's crew.

Skip Finkbohner said outside court Friday that when the Alabama Power crew set up a new electrical line on a new pole, it was too close to the old one, which contained abandoned hardware and hanging lines.

"At some point," the attorney said, the abandoned equipment left on the old pole became energized, creating a deadly -- but unknown -- hazard by the time Brackett came along to work on the telephone company's own relocation project.

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