Electrocution Deaths

Our Approach

Justin Edwin Dominguez was an adventurous 15-year-old boy, who loved to climb trees. On the fateful day of December 19, 2011, Justin wanted to show his siblings and cousins just how good he was at climbing trees. He led the group of kids to play in the woods and climb trees behind their property in Fort Myers, Florida. The woods were filled with large climbable bamboo trees that were over 30 feet high. One particular clump of bamboo was close to a Florida Power & Light (FPL) high voltage power line. As Justin climbed higher the flexible bamboo tree began to bend until its top came in contact with the high voltage line. Because bamboo is generally filled with water it acts as a super-conductor of electricity. When the bamboo hit the uninsulated high voltage power line more than 23,000 volts of electricity surged through the bamboo and then through Justin’s body causing him to lose his grip and fall to the ground. The electricity stopped Justin’s heart, depriving his brain of precious oxygen.  Justin lapsed into a coma and a few weeks later, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away due to complications from high voltage electrocution.

Our firm was contacted after Mrs. Dominguez was presented with an insultingly low settlement offer by Florida Power & Light. Two prior law firms got nowhere with FPL but when Mrs. Dominguez brought her case to Aloia Roland, our senior partners, Ty Roland and Evan Lubell, immediately dove into the case and quickly located critical evidence clearly establishing FPL’s negligence. All cases involve negotiating to reach an agreement and avoid the burden of a trial. In this situation, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement and a jury trial was the only remedy. The jury awarded $24 million dollars including punitive damages to punish FPL for their dereliction of duty.

The sad truth in this case was that a mother needlessly lost her child because a billion-dollar corporation failed to do its job. This wasn’t just an accident; this case actually dates back three years prior, when a phone call was made on October 28, 2008, about a downed power line in the backyard of 7423 Albany Road. The call center created a “Trouble Ticket.” On that trouble ticket, an FPL arborist clearly states that the bamboo behind 7423 Albany road needed to be removed. In response to the trouble ticket, FPL sent its tree trimmers out to remove the bamboo, but instead of removing the bamboo completely, the was simply cut down.  When bamboo is not removed properly by digging up the root system, new bamboo shoots can sprout from the ground within two weeks and grow to heights of 60 feet in just a few months.

In December of 2011, three years later, Justin Dominguez, climbed the new bamboo trees that had been growing unchecked by FPL. The FPL was never removed by FPL. FPL’s tree trimmers chose to simply trim the bamboo rather than remove the bamboo as per FPL’s work order. The bamboo predictably grew right back and Justin Dominguez was electrocuted climbing bamboo that should not have been in that yard had FPL done its job. Two weeks later, on January 3, 2011, at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Justin was pronounced brain dead.

There are several reasons why we  fought so hard for our client’s day in court in this wrongful death case and the main reason was because FPL violated their own safety rule when they chose to trim the bamboo as opposed to remove it. A boy should not die climbing a tree in his yard. A mother should not lose her first born son because a giant utility company decided to cut corners. Don’t let your family be a victim of fatal electrocution or electric shock injuries.; If you see your trees are getting close to the power lines, call FPL or your local electric company to have them safely and effectively remove the vegetation.

Our Story

What to do if someone gets electrocuted?

Call 911 immediately and make sure they know that there are hot power lines involved. In some cases, good Samaritans can become victims when power lines are involved. If it happened outside, such as a high-voltage powerline or lightning, stay at least twenty feet away from the victim. Whatever you do, do not move the injured party unless they are in immediate danger.

What are the symptoms of being electrocuted?

  • Muscle Spasms
  • Burns
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Numbness or tingling in ligaments
  • Breathing problems or have stopped breathing altogether
  • Not being able to see or hear
  • Limbs start to swell, also known as compartment syndrome

Make sure not to touch the injured party if they are still in contact with the electrical current. If applicable, turn off the source of electricity. If you can’t turn off the source, find some type of non-conducting agent such as plastic to push the source away from the injured party. If the victim is showing no signs of circulation, proceed with CPR. Another step is to make sure the person doesn’t become chilled by covering their injuries with a sterile gauze.

If you get electrocuted and are still lucid, let go of the power source and safely move away, if able call 911. If you are unable to move, call out for help. If you feel the shock is minor, still contact a doctor and get checked out. If you see any burns, wrap them up with a sterile gauze. Don’t use any adhesive bandages or towels of that nature, as the fibers might stick to the skin.

Documenting the scene is crucial with videos and pictures, as well as if there were any home or business camera systems running at the time, to get the footage.

What are the four main types of electrical injuries?

There are four main injuries that can be sustained from an electrical source. Electrocution, which is derived from the words “electro” and “execution,” meaning death or serious injury caused by an electric shock and happens when an electrical current passes through the victim’s body. Electric shock, which is serious but not fatal. Electrical burns are the most common electrical injury and are usually nonfatal. Another injury that most people face, according to the CDC, is fatal falls that may occur after contact with electrical current.

What to do if someone has been electrocuted on someone else’s property?

Accidents happen and sometimes it is on someone else’s property. Being electrocuted or having an electric shock accident on someone else’s property or business could give rise to a as premises liability claim. This refers to the owner of the property or possibly a tenant, who owns a business in a complex. Under Florida Law, they are responsible for maintaining their property in a reasonably safe condition, including allowing vegetation to grow to close to dangerous power lines.. A failure to do so may result in an accident by a visitor and the property owner or tenant could be liable because of neglecting maintenance repairs.

What are the common injuries from an electrical shock, and what are lingering symptoms?

Burns are the most common injuries that happen from an electrical shock accident. There are at least 30,000 nonfatal electric shock incidents per year, as well as approximately 1,000 deaths per year in the United States due to electrical shock sustained injuries. Most of the deaths are caused due to work-related injuries. When talking about electric shock it is good to know the difference between high voltage and low voltage. Anything above 500 volts is referred to as high voltage.

There are numerous long-term effects of electric shock that range from physical ailments, psychological effects as well as neurological.

The physical ailments most people experience after an electrical shock accident could include eye problems such as the rapid development of cataracts, random pains that are unexplained as well as arthritis, joint stiffness and muscle damage.

Psychological effects could include depression, anxiety, memory loss, PTSD, slower cognitive abilities, possible development of a phobia, and many more.

Neurological issues could arise after electric shock with the worst being paralysis. Many could experience seizures, others dizziness, tremors, migraines and even ringing in the ears or progressive hearing loss. Some will experience nerve damage as well as developing carpal tunnel syndrome, numbness or a ‘pins and needles’ tingling sensation.

Resources for vegetation management to prevent electrocution by overhead power lines

There are many different resources out there such as the Electricity and Tree Care Work guide put out by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you feel you vegetation is overgrown or that it might come in contact with a powerline, please don’t hesitate to call your local electric company and request that they send someone to safely trim and remove vegetation near power lines from your residence or place of business.

Other risks associated with overhead power lines

There are numerous risks of electrocution that come from overhead power lines as they are typically not insulated which makes any type of contact extremely dangerous. Another tremendous risk that comes from overhead power lines is an increased fire hazard.

Overhead vs Buried power lines, pros and cons

There are many pros and cons to both overhead and buried power lines. As far as electrocution cases are concerned, buried or underground power lines are safer and pose less risk for the public with contact. Even though buried power lines are significantly more expensive and tend not to last as long, they have extremely lower maintenance costs such as no tree trimming. Underground power lines also perform significantly better than overhead lines especially during a storm.

Stats on Electrocution in Florida

From January 1, 1981, through June 28, 2009, there were an estimated total of 692 events that occurred in the state of Florida.

  • Out of these there were 175 accidents caused by vegetation contact issues with power lines, which is 25% of all accidents.
  • 23% or 40 people were using long poles during trimming or harvesting fruit.
  • Another 101 accidents occurred in the backyards of private properties which makes up a staggering 58% of the vegetation involved accidents.
  • Sixteen of these vegetation-related accidents were mango harvesting-related.
  • Sadly, 63 of these vegetation incidents were fatal.

How can you contact us to find out more or to file an electrocution claim?

Call us at 239-791-7950