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Gary Barnes v. Kansas City Power & Light, et al.

Type of Action:Product Liability / Personal Injury

Injuries Alleged:Spinal cord burst fracture and compression injury

Name of Case:Gary Barnes v. Kansas City Power & Light, et al.

Court/Case #:Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri at Independence,

Case No.02CV234568

Name of Judge:Judge Kramer

Special Damages:$3 million

Verdict/Settlement:Settlement through mediation with the Honorable Jack Gant

Amount:Confidential

Date of Settlement:November 20, 2003

Plaintiff’s Experts:Wes Sherman, Electrical Engineer, Columbia, MO; Mike Dreiling, Vocational Rehabilitation, Prairie Village, KS; Tracy Wingate, Life Care Planner, Overland Park, KS; Gerald Miller, Economist, Kansas City, MO.

Defendant’s Experts:None disclosed

Insurance Carrier:AEGIS

Plaintiff’s Attorneys:Scott Shachtman and Sly James of The Sly James Firm, Rick Holtsclaw and Brad Kendall of Holtsclaw & Kendall, all from Kansas City, MO

Def’s Attorneys:Victoria Schroeder, Larry Ward, Greg Bentz, all from Kansas City, MO

Case Description

On January 25, 2002, Plaintiff Gary Barnes was working as a roofer in Mission Hills, Kansas. While standing on a ladder and installing a ten-foot metal flashing, Mr. Gary Barnes sustained severe electrical shock when the metal flashing in his hand came into contact with a 7,200 volt electric power line.

After sustaining severe electrical shock, Mr. Barnes fell approximately 20 feet to the ground. He was then taken to the emergency room at the University of Kansas Hospital and was diagnosed with eight broken ribs, a cracked sternum, a spinal cord compression injury at T5 to T9, a burst spinal fracture at T7, burns on his fingers, hands and knees, a blood clot on his brain, severe nerve pain, damage to his tailbone and extensive damage to his teeth, which have to be pulled. Mr. Barnes is now a paraplegic.

Plaintiff argued that Kansas City Power & Light (“KCP&L”) breached its duty owed to Mr. Barnes to exercise the highest degree of care in keeping its electric power lines in a safe condition and safe location so as to prevent injury to persons in close proximity to the power lines. Plaintiff also contended that it was practical for defendant KCP&L to make the subject power line safer by moving it further away from the house.

In defense of this case, KCP&L contended that Mr. Barnes and his employer were responsible for this accident because both Missouri and Kansas law require that anybody who expects to work within 10 feet of a power line must contact KCP&L first. Mr. Barnes’ employer did not contact KCP&L regarding this work.

One of the most significant issues in this case was whether Missouri or Kansas law should control. Since the accident occurred in Kansas, KCP&L took the position that Kansas law controlled. However, KCP&L also argued in its Third Party Petition against Mr. Barnes’ employer that under Missouri law it was entitled to assert a contribution claim against the employer.

Plaintiff took the position that Missouri law applied, for the following reasons: (1) the electrical volt was created and delivered by KCP&L, a Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri company; (2) KCP&L made safety and administrative decisions in Jackson County, Missouri; (3) KCP&L decided where to place its electrical lines in its Jackson County, Missouri office; and (4) KCP&L creates and enforces its policies and procedures from in its office in Jackson County, Missouri.