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Jury Socks Co. With $114M Verdict

October 31, 1999

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ An Alabama jury awarded $114.5 million to a former power company lineman in his suit against a bucket truck manufacturer, agreeing with his claims that a lack of insulation in a lift bucket control handle led to his injuries in a 1995 accident.

John S. Aultman, 45, a former lineman for Black Warrior Electric Co. in Demopolis, and his wife, Shirley, sued Terex-Telelect Inc. after the accident, which caused Aultman to lose one arm and rendered the other useless.

The Hale County Circuit Court jury returned the verdict against the company Friday. As part of an agreement, company attorneys said they would not appeal.

Aultman was standing in an insulated lift bucket, with his hand on the control handle that operated the bucket, when he touched a power line, said his attorney, Jere Beasley. The resulting electric shock would not have happened had the metal handle been insulated, he said.

An attorney for the Watertown, S.D.-based company said Aultman had violated safety rules, including refusing to wear rubber gloves.

``People have somehow decided that individuals are no longer responsible for what happens to them _ somebody else is,″ said lawyer Robert Turner of Marion. He said the verdict was ``hard to understand″ because Aultman ``deliberately put himself in the position to get shocked.″

Both sides said they had reached an agreement under which the company would pay no more than an agreed-upon figure. That figure and other terms of the agreement were confidential, the attorneys said.

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