A Montgomery, Alabama, city electrical inspector was named in a lawsuit over a boy's electrocution death in 2009 and could face an expensive payout. Alabama law caps payouts from local governments at $100,000, but that doesn't apply to individual city employees, the Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled in this specific case.
This could mean that a "Montgomery employee could face a very expensive judgment," according to a report from Montgomery-based WSFA.
The 6-year-old boy was playing hide and seek in his grandmother's yard when he was electrocuted at an adjacent commercial building. The boy had jumped onto the concrete pad holding the air conditioner and touched a rolled-up fence that was in contact with an electrical box. The site had been inspected six months before by city employee Wayne Morrow, so he was named in the suit.
But according to Morrow's attorney, copper thieves had rolled the fence back since then, wrapping the electrical wires from the junction box around the fence. (For an image of the site, see WSFA story).
The case has yet to be settled, and the question still remains as to how much an individual city employee might have to pay in such a lawsuit after the Alabama Supreme court had issued the ruling - that the $100,000 pay out cap in place for municipalities does not apply to their employees named individually in lawsuits.
WSFA reported that the City of Montgomery issued a statement about the ruling saying:
"Public employees are now being placed in harm's way and must accept the risk that their individual wealth and the assets of their families are now subject to litigation. This may have a chilling effect not only on Montgomery city employees, but also on city, county, school and state employees throughout Alabama."