Monday, September 19, 2016

Family of electrocuted teacher sues Met-Ed : suit alleges that Met-Ed failed to properly install and maintain the power line and its connections, and didn't take adequate steps to ensure their safety.

Family of electrocuted teacher sues Met-Ed

Players, coaches and spectators observed a moment of silence in memory of Palisades assistant football coach and Wilson High School alum Tom Poynton Jr. during the Wilson-Palisades football game.
Riley YatesContact ReporterOf The Morning Call

Family of Palisades High School teacher electrocuted at Williams Township home sue Met-Ed

EASTON — The family of a high school teacher electrocuted by a downed power line outside his Williams Township home is suing the electrical company for negligence, charging it failed to properly maintain its equipment.

Thomas Poynton Jr. was killed July 26 by the force from a 34,500-volt transmission line after he stepped into his backyard to help his dogs, said the lawsuit filed Monday in Northampton County Court. It names Met-Ed and its parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., and seeks an unspecified amount of money for wrongful death, emotional distress and pain and suffering.

Poynton, 31, taught at Palisades High School in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County, and was also an assistant football coach there. His wife, Sarah, is an elementary school teacher in the Easton Area School District, and they have a baby daughter.

"This was a terrible death suffered by a husband, father and teacher who was loved by so many," said attorney Shanin Specter, who filed the suit on behalf of Sarah Poynton and her mother, Marianne Rush, both of whom witnessed the electrocution.

"Thomas Poynton's death was preventable, had Met-Ed and FirstEnergy properly installed, maintained and inspected its power line, especially such a high-voltage line coming from one of its power substations," Specter said in a written statement.

READ: Lawsuit filed against Met-Ed by family of electrocuted Palisades teacher

On Monday, the electrical company declined comment.

"To date, Met-Ed and/or FirstEnergy has not seen the lawsuit filed in this case," spokesman Scott Surgeoner said in a prepared statement. "Additionally, it is company policy that we don't comment on matters either pending or in litigation."

Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek has ruled that Poynton's death was an accidental electrocution. He said Poynton never touched the downed power line, and was a "good distance away" when he was shocked by a current that traveled through the ground, which was wet from a prior thunderstorm.

Thomas Joseph Poynton Jr., 31, died in the backyard of his home from what authorities believe was an electrocution from a downed 34,500-volt power line Tuesday morning, June 26, 2016. Poynton was a Palisades High School teacher and assistant football coach.

Authorities said Poynton's gold retriever, Stella, was also electrocuted on the energized ground, and the house was damaged after catching fire.

The home on Royal Manor Road sits adjacent to a Met-Ed electrical substation. Power lines pass about 65 feet behind the house.

According to the account alleged in the lawsuit:

About 9:45 a.m., Sarah and Thomas Poynton heard a loud explosion, exited their home through the back door, and saw fire and sparks around the base of a utility pole in the rear of their yard.

Their two dogs were barking and rolling on their backs in the grass. The couple went inside to retrieve their phones, then returned to help their pets.

Neither Sarah nor Thomas Poynton saw the downed power line, but a 34,500-volt conductor had fallen into their yard, "at least 50 feet" from their deck. Part of an ungrounded circuit, it remained energized and shocked Sarah Poynton as she stepped into the yard, though she was not injured.

The current that hit Thomas Poynton caused him to collapse and he was "shocked continuously" until the electrical company's employees turned off the power. Sarah Poynton saw her husband lying in the grass while being electrocuted, shifting positions as he was shocked.

Her mother, Rush, who lives next door, also saw Thomas Poynton but "was unable to assist him because of the electrical current running through the ground."

The heat of the charge was so strong, the family's lawyers said, that earth near the base of the utility pole had liquefied and turned to glass.

The suit alleges that Met-Ed failed to properly install and maintain the power line and its connections, and didn't take adequate steps to ensure their safety.