Lynn man struck by falling utility pole files lawsuit

A man who suffered serious injuries after being struck by a utility pole during Hurricane Sandy is seeking damages from the companies that own and use the pole.

“We’re requesting a trial by jury,” said Peabody Attorney Barry Feinstein, who was retained Thursday to represent Bay State Road resident Chris Murray.

Feinstein filed a lawsuit in Essex Superior Court Tuesday claiming that because Comcast of Georgia/Massachusetts and Verizon New England both string cables from poles on Bay State Road, both are legally responsible for the maintenance and safety of the poles. He also said late Wednesday that he planned to amend the suit to add National Grid, since it also strings wires on the poles.

The 45-year-old father of two suffered two fractured vertebrae, six broken ribs, one collapsed lung and a fractured scapular after a tree came down, snapping a utility pole that struck Murray with a glancing blow as he stood in his driveway.

“We have filed four counts in the complaint,” Feinstein said. “Two counts of negligence and two counts of strict liability.”

Comcast spokesman Doreen Vigue stated only that the company does not comment on pending litigation. Phil Santoro, spokesman for Verizon, said he was unaware of the suit and would look into the issue.

Santoro said the poles on the street likely would be owned by one of two companies: Verizon or the electric company, which for Lynn would be National Grid. Comcast would also be named, as would the city of Lynn, which also strings its fire alarm system on the same poles.

It is unclear just who owns the pole.

According to court papers, Feinstein asserts that the poles were rotted, weak and otherwise unsafe, which made them “unreasonably hazardous.”

He also says Comcast and Verizon should take responsibility since the negligence resulted in injuries to Murray, “causing him to endure continued medical care and treatment; emotional and physical pain and suffering; and out-of-pocket expenses, including but not limited to medical expenses, lost wages and loss of enjoyment of life.”

“It’s very unfortunate,” Feinstein said. “In this instance Mr. Murray sustained quite serious injuries … that kept him in Mass General (Hospital) for a week.”

Feinstein is also charging both companies under a state law, Strict Liability, that states any “telegraph company,” which for all intents and purposes includes the cable companies, are liable for damages caused by its poles, wires or apparatus.

He said he doesn’t have to prove negligence, only that Comcast and Verizon were responsible for the utility pole and wires.

“We’re seeking a trial by jury so a jury might make an award to compensate Mr. Murray,” he said, adding that he expects Murray’s pain and suffering will be ongoing for an unknown period.

In an earlier interview with the Item, Murray said that none of his breaks required surgery but his first night at MGH was excruciating and he still needs to wear a large neck brace.

“I get a little better every day but then I slip back a little,” he said earlier. “It will be awhile.”