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City files appeal of $750,000 decision
Feb 02, 2007 12:00 am
The City of Lebanon has served notice that they plan to appeal a judgement which awarded $750,000 to a Macon County man badly injured in a 2003 gas line rupture.
Along with Bush Construction Company Inc., they are appealing the judgment from Wilson County Circuit Court Judge John Wootten Jr. which said the city failed to notify backhoe operator Robert A. Ward that a dormant gas line had been reactivated.
Ward was operating a backhoe June 12, 2003, on West Main Street near Bay Court for Dillard and Maynard Construction when the backhoe struck an operating gas line. While the line had been placed there, Ward claimed he was not notified the line was activated, a point the city contended. When he struck the line he stopped working, and according to his complaint, the explosion occurred immediately after exiting the backhoe.
However, the court ruled Ward was 30 percent responsible, based in part on the city's claim Ward remained in the area for 20 minutes after the gas line ruptured and lighting a pipe while highly-flammable gas was present.
A hearing before the Tennessee Court of Appeals has yet to be scheduled. However, the city contends Ward failed to use the Tennessee One-Call system immediately before digging – a fact which was not disputed in court.
However, City Attorney Andy Wright said Wootten and the jury relied on previous case law and did not take into consideration laws passed since then which states a notice to Tennessee One-Call is valid for only 10 days after the call is made.
"Apparently he'd used it once and there was a span of some time… and had he used it again, he would have known that the gas lines had been recharged and made active again," Wright said. "Instead, he relied on old information, which caused the gas line rupture when he started digging."
A motion for a new trial was denied in October.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at email@example.com.