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Lawsuit filed against Mon Power, FirstEnergy after 2021 house fire

Erin Cleavenger, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.  


    Jun. 11—A lawsuit filed this week in Monongalia County Circuit Court by a Taylor County couple names Monongahela Power Company (Mon Power) and FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. as defendants, along with Mon Power Supervisor for Distribution Technician James Connor and Mon Power Director of Operations Services Michael Alan Haynes.

    According to the complaint filed, the couple, Gary and Olivia Shaw, of Thornton, along with their two children, lost their home to a fire in June 2021. The lawsuit states the fire was caused by the negligence of the power company.

    The family is being represented by attorneys Hunter B. Mullens and C. Brian Matko of Mullens and Mullens, LLC.

    The Shaws are the owners of two properties on Westerman Hollow Road in Thornton, one of which was a historic farmhouse originally built in or around 1890, the suit claims. The farmhouse was the family's primary residence and Gary Shaw's lifelong home.

    On June 6, 2021, the family came home from a graduation party to find firefighters working on their home that was "completely engulfed in fire, " the suit states. Their family cat was also killed in the fire.

    According to the complaint, immediately before the fire, "a high-tension electric transmission line owned and maintained by Mon Power broke. The broken line fell onto a distribution line that was in close proximity to [the Shaws'] properties.

    "The excess energy from the transmission line overloaded the distribution line that led to [the Shaws'] residence which resulted in the fire that destroyed the home."

    The suit goes on to say the excess energy also overloaded a distribution line that led to a building located on their nearby second property, resulting in damage to that building.

    The complaint states that Mon Power and FirstEnergy, or their predecessor, "designed and constructed an infrastructure system which includes both high-tension electric transmission lines and distribution lines." In addition, they are "further responsible for maintaining said infrastructure."

    The suit claims the power company's conduct in designing and maintaining the electrical system in a public area constituted an abnormally dangerous activity, which exposed the plaintiffs to an unreasonable risk of harm.

    "At all relative times, [the defendants ] had control over the abnormally dangerous activity of maintaining the electrical system including the high-tension transmission lines, " the suit states.

    In addition, "the high-tension transmission lines that ran through Westerman Hollow Road were either defectively designed or defectively maintained."

    The family's complaint states Mon Power /FirstEnergy knew or should have known when installing and maintaining the lines that something was defective, "creating an unreasonable risk of injury to the public, " and their negligence created a "clear and immediate risk of serious injury."

    The suit claims the defendants "failed to properly maintain the high-tension transmission lines in a safe and reasonable manner, and instead, negligently, carelessly, and recklessly maintained the high-tension transmission lines causing the transmission line to break."

    The Shaws say as a direct result of the defendant's conduct, they have suffered and will continue to suffer severe emotional and mental distress, trauma and harm, medical expenses, annoyance, aggravation and inconvenience.

    The family is requesting the court award actual damages proved at trial, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, court and attorney's fees, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the court or jury.

    The Dominion Post reached out to FirstEnergy Senior Communications Representative Will Boye, who said the company is unable to comment on pending litigation.

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