Supreme Court upholds $18 million judgment against Qwest
The Denver Post
May 25, 2011
Denver jury properly awarded $18 million in
punitive damages to Xcel transmission lineman Andrew Blood, who
sued Qwest after he was paralyzed when a Qwest telephone pole he
was on broke from internal rot, the
Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The Supreme Court said Qwest's failure to implement a periodic
pole-inspection program during the 46 years prior to Blood's
accident was "willful and wanton." It said the failure to
implement the program was "sufficiently reprehensible" to
justify the award.
The $18 million award was the focus of the court claim. Another
$21.6 million was awarded in compensatory damages for a total of
Mark Molzen, a spokesman for CenturyLink, formerly Qwest, called
the accident "tragic" and said the company was reviewing the
According to testimony, on June 29, 2004, Blood was on the pole
taking down wooden cross-arms in an effort to remove the pole.
With five minutes of work left, the rotting pole broke 6 inches
below the ground, dropping Blood about 25 feet. The fall
fractured his spine and immediately paralyzed the
then-24-year-old from the waist down.
The Supreme Court said there was extensive evidence that a
periodic pole-inspection program would have detected the pole's
Under a "joint utility contract," Xcel was allowed to use
Qwest said it relied on pre-climb inspections by linemen to
detect internal rot. Qwest said it would replace the poles
linemen found unsafe.
Prior to climbing the pole, said the opinion, Blood visually
inspected the pole and determined it was "well- placed" in the
ground. He also struck it numerous times with a heavy hammer to
detect internal rot.
He thought the pole was solid enough to climb, a belief shared
by other experienced Xcel linemen on the scene, said the high
The award is thought to be the largest personal-injury judgment
Howard Pankratz, The