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Man Left Paralyzed After Corporation Shirked Tree Branch Removal Responsibilities

In 2015, Oncor Electric Delivery, the largest transmission and distribution electric utility in Texas, installed an overhead power line at a residence in Graham, Texas. However, the line passed over the property of a man named James Stacey Taylor, who went by Stacey. Tree branches near the line were creating a potentially dangerous situation, so Stacey contacted Oncor multiple times to have the trees trimmed. Tree maintenance near high-voltage power lines requires specialized equipment and training, and is thus the utility company’s legal responsibility to handle. However, to avoid costs that would have cut into their profit margins, Oncor insisted that Stacey trim or remove the trees himself. Trusting that Oncor would not have lied to him, Stacey proceeded to trim the branches. Unfortunately, as he worked on the trees, he came in contact with the power line. Electricity coursed through his entire body, leaving him severely shocked, burned, and paralyzed from the neck down.

As Stacey lay in the hospital, his family contacted Sean Breen of Howry, Breen & Herman, LLP. They wanted to hold Oncor accountable for putting profits over safety, and they needed compensation for the lifetime of care that Stacey would need.

From the start, Oncor refused to take responsibility, leaning on Texas special interest statutes that lavish utility companies with considerable immunity. They thumbed their nose at Sean as he attempted to advocate for Stacey and his family. In fact, their initial offer was to drop their attorneys’ fees. Over seven years, Oncor papered Sean and his team with motions, dilatory appeals, and litigation obstacles. One appeal went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. However, after three years, Sean and his team prevailed.

Preparing for trial, Sean sought help from an accident reconstructionist, a liability expert, and a team of damages experts — including a burn specialist, a lifecare planner, and an economist. He also contacted DK Global early in the case. Together, Sean, the experts, and DK Global crafted a 3D animation that augmented and strengthened the evidence and testimony.

The presentation began with a 3D character representation of Stacey. The explosive electrocution was animated, followed by a head-to-toe description of the Plaintiff’s burn trauma and spinal cord injuries. First, the animation explained how Stacey suffered 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, 3rd-degree, and even 4th-degree burns — where the dermis, underlying tissue, and nerve endings were destroyed, exposing muscle and even bone. Stacey’s burn injuries ranged from a large blood clot on his scalp that needed to be debrided, to the partial loss of his right ear, to a corneal abrasion and cataracts in his eyes, to burns across his face, lips, neck, back, torso, legs, and groin. Each animated image was juxtaposed with a photograph of Stacey to authenticate its accuracy. Next, the demonstrative showed the nerve damage to Stacey’s spinal cord at the C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae, and the physiology of how the shock rendered him an incomplete quadriplegic.

With no possibility of a settlement, Sean and his team prepared for trial. True to form, the Defense orchestrated a mistrial as the two sides could not find enough jurors to sit for a three-week trial. However, at the new trial, Sean found the twelve people who would hear Stacey’s case. In addition, Sean won a motion that allowed him to show the DK Global animation during the trial whenever he needed to. Finally, after nearly a decade of navigating the Texas court system, the jury listened to Stacey’s story. When they finished deliberating, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Stacey and his family to the tune of $54,000,000.

Sean Breen is a record-setting trial attorney who has won numerous Hall of Fame verdicts and recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. Sean has been recognized as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” for personal injury, product liability, and commercial litigation. Additionally, Sean was selected to be part of the prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, National Top 100 Trial Lawyers, and Super Lawyers. Howry, Breen & Herman, LLP represents clients nationwide with offices in Texas, Colorado, and California.


"I think trial attorneys who are not using 3D animations and illustrations are leaving money on the table."
Sean Breen - Howry Breen & Herman, LLP
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