Wednesday, 17 May 2006
CASE FINALISED 12 YEARS ON
Eskom ordered to pay R2.8m in damages
Eskom has agreed to pay a 22-year-old Blue Downs man R2.8 million in damages for serious injuries he sustained when climbing an electricity pylon in 1994, when he was aged 11. In addition to the substantial damages award, the electricity utility will pay his father damages of R13 000 and the costs of the litigation.
On August 4, 1994, after returning from school in Malibu Village, Blue Downs, Jacques Hendricks, his younger brother and a friend took the family dog for a walk. When the boys reached an Eskom pylon, Jacques challenged the two to a race to see who could climb the highest. When he reached the anti-climbing device (ACD), he pushed the wire out of the grooves and climbed through. When he had stopped to rest, he spotted several glass insulators. On touching one, Hendricks was flung from the pylon, his clothes on fire.
A passer-by covered him with a jacket to extinguish the flames. Hendricks’s father Jacob sued Eskom on his behalf. In a report submitted to court, an orthopaedic surgeon said that Hendricks returned to school after treatment of his injuries, but that his schooling deteriorated because pupils teased him because of his injuries. He worked as an assistant gearbox mechanic for about three years and was then retrenched. He has been unable to find a suitable job. Besides scarring, he still has hearing difficulties and problems with his shoulder.
The Cape High Court ruled that both Jacques and Eskom had been negligent. Jacques was held on third to blame and Eskom, two thirds. But Eskom appealed and Jacques’ father cross-appealed. In May last year, Judge of Appeals Douglas Scott, with whom four judges of appeal had agreed, found that the ACD did not constitute an effective barrier and that a reasonable person would at least have ensured that the ACD could not be dismantled by simply pushing the wire out of the grooves. Eskom’s appeal was dismissed.
Judge Scott also found that Jacques’ conduct on that day was “typical of the impulsive behaviour in which children of a tender age sometimes engage”. The Appeal Court upheld the cross appeal and ruled that Eskom be held liable for Jacques’ damages. Eskom was also ordered to pay costs. In court yesterday, Eskom settled the matter with Hendricks and his father and has agreed to pay Hendricks R2 806 730 in damages.
The electricity utility has also agreed to pay his father R13 269 in damages as well as costs. The amounts have to be paid into Hendricks’s attorneys’ trust account within 20 days. Judge Thandaswa Ndita made the settlement an order of court yesterday.