Edison Responds to Wrongful Death Suit by Widow of Man Doing Contract Work

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Southern California Edison Co. responded today to a lawsuit filed by the widow and two minor children of a 34-year-old man electrocuted in 2020 while doing contract work for the utility, expressing sympathy for the family and saying the company's full response will come through the litigation.

Stephanie Wickstrom, who was married to lineman Eric Wickstrom of Redlands, brought the wrongful death suit on July 22 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of herself and her twin sons against the Rosemead-based company, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“SCE understood and knew that due to its flawed and dangerous safety culture, unsafe acts will occur and accidents and serious injuries will happen when third-party contractors were working on its facilities,'' the suit states. “There had been a number of injuries and/or deaths caused by SCE's flawed safety culture, including at least three injuries in 2018 and one death in 2018.''

The SCE released its statement today regarding the suit.

“We keep the Wickstrom family in our thoughts during this difficult time,'' the statement read. “At SCE, the safety of our customers, employees, contractors and communities remains our number one priority. We are reviewing the lawsuit filed by the Wickstrom family and will respond as part of the litigation proceedings.''

In 2020, SCE had a contract with Wickstrom's employer, Diversified Utility Services Inc., to maintain and repair distribution lines, the suit states. Wickstrom and other Diversified workers assisted SCE's repair crews by doing emergency repair work on poles damaged by vehicles, the suit states.

SCE personnel oversaw and were in charge of the work done, according to the suit.

On July 22, 2020, Diversified sent a four-man crew, including Wickstrom, to repair a pole hit by a vehicle in San Bernardino, the suit states. SCE instructed and assisted the Diversified crew by directly working on the damaged pole and providing the replacement pole, according to the suit.

Wickstrom worked near an energized circuit, which SCE knew created a dangerous and deadly condition, the suit states.

The SCE supervisor and the other SCE personnel on scene put a loaded crossarm atop the buckets of both aerial lifts to be  raised and installed on the new pole, the suit states.

“It was SCE's regular practice to assist, encourage, direct and participate with placing crossarms on top of buckets,'' the suit states. “One of the SCE employees at the scene said, `That's how we do it.'''

While lifting the crossarm, Wickstrom was pinned against the pole, the suit states. Injured but still alive, he was unable to operate the aerial lift controls located in his bucket, according to the suit.

An SCE employee and/or a Diversified crew member assisted and attempted to use secondary controls to lower the bucket containing Wickstrom, but the bucket ascended into energized power lines, electrocuting Wickstrom, the suit states.

Had SCE abided by its own policy, it's workers would have de-energized the circuit before Wickstrom's work began and he would not have died, the suit states. In addition, the circuit on the pole was “dangerously outdated,'' the suit alleges.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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