MIAMI (CN) – For 5 years, Florida Power & Light blew off homeowners’ requests to trim vegetation by its power lines, and the years of neglect culminated in an FPL power line “blowing out the left side of [a landscaper’s] face and left eye,” the man claims in Miami-Dade County Court.
Dwane Torres claims FPL knew of the risks from its power lines, and that it “owed a ‘greater than usual duty of care’ to the public due to the highly dangerous uninsulated electrical lines it installed and maintained in residential areas, knowing that its equipment had unquestionably power to kill and maim.”
Torres says FPL knew that the lush tropical foliage in the region “easily obscured and/or hid its highly energized, uninsulated power lines, creating a significant safety hazard.”
He adds that FPL “had an additional option of burying its power lines underground on Key Biscayne, and in other hurricane prone areas of Florida, but elected not to do so”.
Torres claims the (nonparty) owners of a home on Harbor Drive on Key Biscayne, the Toranos, had called FPL “on multiple occasions … to have the utility company come out and inspect the vegetation that had matured to the extent the power lines became entangled in the palms and vegetation.”
But he says FPL “intentionally neglected to clear vegetation from its power lines along Harbor Drive in over a five (5) year span.”
In fact, Torres says: “When defendant FPL’s representative came out to the residence at the request of the Toranos, said individual indicated FPL would not remove or trim vegetation away from the power lines at that time
So the homeowners were “forced” to hire Greenworks, a private landscaping company where Torres worked, according to the complaint.
Torres used a “saw-type device attached or affixed to an extension pole” and was unable to see the power lines as he began trimming the vegetation.
“At or about that time, either a palm frond or the saw-type device plaintiff was holding became energized by the power lines in the back section of the residence.
“The electrical energy from the power line entered Dwane Torres’ head and brain, blowing out the left side of his face and left eye; it also blew a hole through plaintiff’s upper torso and exited through a ‘blow out’ hole in his arm,” the complaint states.
Torres suffered brain damage, blindness and first-degree burns over 37 percent of his body. He has been hospitalized since the accident more than a year ago, and has undergone “dozens of surgical procedures.”
“The National Electrical Safety Code, Section 218 (‘Tree Trimming’) imposes a specific duty and responsibility on defendant FPL to trim and/or remove trees and similar vegetation from ‘underground supply conditions’ (i.e. energized power lines); and if trimming or removal is not practical then defendant FPL had a duty to separate the tree or vegetation from the conductor by using suitable insulation materials or similar shielding devices to prevent the conductor from being contacted,” the complaint states.
Torres sued FPL, and only FPL, for negligence, pain and suffering, injuries, disfigurement, lost earnings, lost earnings capacity, and medical expenses. He is represented by David Mishael.