APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Civil Division Trial Judges: Matthew I. Katz Brian J. Grearson
Hemond v. Frontier Communications of America, Inc., f/k/a Citizens Communications Co., d/b/a/ Citizens Energy Services, Vermont Electric Co. (2012-006)
In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:
¶ 1. Defendant, Frontier Communications of America, Inc. ("Frontier"), formerly known as Citizens Communications Company ("Citizens"), appeals, interlocutorily, the trial court's denial of its summary judgment motion in this personal injury claim. Defendant asserts that because the allegedly negligent act that ultimately led to plaintiff's injury occurred at a time in the past, when plaintiff was its employee, it is protected by workers' compensation exclusivity. We affirm.
¶ 2. Plaintiffs, Michael and Tracey Hemond, filed a personal injury claim on account of an electrocution injury Mr. Hemond suffered in September 2006, while he was working as a lineman for the Vermont Electric Cooperative, Inc. ("VEC"). The underlying facts are as follows.
¶ 3. In 2000, Mr. Hemond began working for Frontier as an apprentice lineman.*fn1 In 2002, Frontier submitted a plan to the Vermont Public Service Board for reconstruction of the Richford substation, which included the installation of a new switch known as Switch 14E. In their personal injury claim, plaintiffs allege that Frontier was responsible for initiating the reconstruction of the Richford substation, and that the reconstruction of the substation and Switch 14E were done in accordance with design specifications and plans developed by Frontier and its contractors.
¶ 4. Around April 2004, Frontier sold its energy-related assets, including the Richford substation and Switch 14E, to VEC. Plaintiffs alleged that by the time of this sale, the design specifications and plans developed by Frontier for the Richford substation were in place, and the reconstruction was already underway. Mr. Hemond kept his job as a lineman with Frontier until VEC bought Frontier. At that time, Mr. Hemond became an employee of VEC without having to apply for a job.
¶ 5. In their personal injury case, plaintiffs alleged that in September 2006, Mr. Hemond, who was then working as a lineman for VEC, was ordered to open switch 14E. When he flipped the switch, he was electrocuted, and he suffered extensive burn injuries, resulting in partial amputations of both his legs.
¶ 6. Mr. Hemond received workers' compensation benefits from VEC in connection with this work injury.
¶ 7. In their personal injury suit, plaintiffs allege that Frontier owed a duty of reasonable care to foreseeable users of the Richford substation, including Mr. Hemond, and that in its redesign of the Richford substation Frontier failed to select switches that were safe and appropriate for the anticipated use.
¶ 8. Frontier filed a motion for summary judgment asserting workers' compensation exclusivity pursuant to 21 V.S.A. § 622. The trial court denied the motion, as well as Frontier's motion to ...