Boy's $5 bet on climbing power pole leads to suit against Ameren

By Steve Gonzalez | Apr 16, 2007

The mother of a boy who fell 35 feet from a power pole after taking a $5 bet from friends filed suit against Ameren in Madison County Circuit Court April 12. The suit claims the utility was negligent because it failed to warn of the tower's dangers.

Anna Thebeau alleges her then 13-year-old son Justin Porter climbed a tower in Mitchell on April 26, 2005, and was shocked by electrical current that came from power and transmission lines owned by Ameren.

The boy took a bet that he could scale the tower.

Thebeau claims the tower carried a 19,700 volt electric line and that the tower contained no written warning signs alerting her son or others to the presence of high voltage electric lines and the risks of serious injury or death associated with towers of this type.

She also alleges another child was previously electrocuted at the same tower and Ameren took no action to prevent the likelihood of another incident from occurring.

Thebeau claims Ameren was negligent by failing to barricade or fence off the tower to prevent access to the tower, failed to change the design of the tower to make the upper portion inaccessible without a ladder and failed to insulate its power lines.

She also alleges Ameren failed to inspect and maintain the power lines and claims Ameren violated the National Electric Code and the Illinois Administrative Code.

According to Thebeau, Justin suffered second and third degree burns to over 34 percent of his body, fractured his pelvis and sacrum, lacerated his spleen, sustained a cardiac contusion and other personal injuries to his body as a whole.

She claims Justin suffered mind and body pain, was disfigured, endured psychiatric trauma, lost a normal life and must endure increased risk of future harm.

Thebeau also claims she lost $3,420 in wages so that she could transport Justin to and from medical care and treatment and that there is $239,754 in past medical expenses.

Represented by Stephen Evans of St. Louis, Thebeau is seeking a judgment in a "fair and reasonable amount" for nominal damages, actual damages, compensatory damages and consequential damages.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Dan Stack.

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