As part of a settlement with a Spring family whose children were burned by a loose wire, CenterPoint Energy will inspect all 220,000 of its guy-wire installations in the Houston region.
The company also agreed to launch a television campaign to raise awareness about potential safety hazards of broken or damaged guy wires like the ones that caused two children to be critically burned in February 2013. A guy wire is a non-electrical tension cable used to stabilize a utility pole.
"This is an unprecedented settlement," attorney Anthony Buzbee, who represented the family, said by email Saturday.
Christopher and Sarah Zarsky sued CenterPoint Energy and CenterPoint Energy Houston in the 164th State District Court after two of their three children were burned last year when a guy wire that had come loose from its anchor in the ground contacted energized components of a CenterPoint power line, according to court documents.
Christopher Zarsky said in the lawsuit that he had notified the company that a corroded guy wire broke away from the underground anchor, leaving it to swing loose.
Despite knowing about the loose wire and its proximity to the energized power lines, "CenterPoint failed to do anything to repair the loose guy wire or otherwise prevent it from becoming energized," the plaintiff's petition stated.
It went on to say that CenterPoint management knew about the "extreme degree of risk" posed by insufficient insulators on its guy wires and by buried guy-wire anchors but did nothing to correct "this systemic problem."
The 3-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl who were playing in the backyard when the guy wire contacted the utility pole's energized components were electrocuted, knocked unconscious and severely burned, the petition stated.
Their 7-year-old brother was also in the backyard, helping to watch his siblings, but he was out of range of the electric current, documents stated.
The injured children were taken by medical helicopter to Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, where they received burn treatment, including multiple skin grafts and surgeries.
A confidential settlement reached last month was announced Friday by CenterPoint Energy. The settlement included trusts in undisclosed amounts for all three children.
"We are sorry the family had to experience this traumatic event," Tracy Bridge, division president of CenterPoint Energy Houston, said in a prepared statement.
"While these types of incidents are extremely rare, CenterPoint Energy takes them seriously and is committed to identifying and remedying potential safety issues related to guy wires."
The children are doing much better, Buzbee's email stated.
"Although they have a long road ahead of them, they have a close and supportive family," he said. "Shriner's burn unit in Galveston has been wonderful."
Any needed repairs uncovered by the inspections are expected to be completed by summer, the company said.
CenterPoint says anyone who sees a broken or damaged guy wire should call the company at 713-207-2222 and should stay away from the equipment until it is repaired.
The Houston Chronicle
February 8, 2014