Landmark decision puts TVA in legal jeopardy after man's death

May 2, 2019

In July of 2013, the Tennessee Valley Authority was working on a downed high-voltage power line along the Tennessee river. Fishermen Gary Thacker and Anthony Szozda left from Ingalls Harbor in Decatur Alabama on a bass boat, and struck the metal cable -- Thacker was injured, Szozda was killed.


The families sued the TVA, but an Alabama court decided that since TVA is a “public corporation” created by Congress, it can use the government’s shield of immunity when accused in lawsuits of wrongdoing related to the power business. The victim's attorneys didn't agree with that finding and took it to the U.S. Supreme Court. 


In a landmark decision this week, the court ruled that TVA and its contractors can no longer use that shield. In her decision, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the TVA looks nothing like a “government” agency today.  Indeed, the TVA "operates about 60 power plants and provides electricity to more than nine million people in seven states,” Kagan wrote. “The rates it charges, along with the bonds it issues, bring in over $10 billion in annual revenues, making federal appropriations unnecessary.”


This decision could now make the TVA and its contractors vulnerable to suits when engaged in activities not considered a government operation.


The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court to review whether or not the TVA can claim limited immunity because it was carrying out a governmental function when the accident occurred. 


According to court documents, the power line was in the water for three hours prior to the men approaching the area and there were no markers or bouys to alert boaters of the activity underway. The raised power line hit Szozda in the neck area, nearly decapitating him and resulting in his death.  Read more about the story here.


At the law offices of T. Verner Smith, we represent clients who have suffered personal injury due to the negligence of another. These types of lawsuits not only provide necessary compensation for those who were wrongfully hurt in an accident, but also creates an environment of caution leading to higher safety standards for all. Contact us for a free consultation at (731) 423-1888, (901) 730-4567, or (615) 371-6136.


At the law offices of Verner Smith, we have handled hundreds of cases over the decades, and will be glad to review your potential case. Contact our main office at (731) 423-1888 today.

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