A student in OSU's Institute of Technology-Okmulgee’s High Voltage Lineman Program has settled his $2 million lawsuit against the university.
Kalen Griffin filed the lawsuit in Jan. 2019 after an unsupervised fall from a utility tower paralyzed him the previous spring.
In his lawsuit, Griffin claimed negligence, premise liability, breach of contract and ultrahazardous activity by OSUIT. The lawsuit argued the school was responsible for his injuries because instructors encouraged new students to practice the ultrahazardous activity without supervision.
According to Griffin’s lawsuit, he was climbing a utility pole without supervision when he fell approximately 40 feet to the ground, suffering multiple broken bones and spinal injuries.
The settlement specifies that the university is not liable for any of the claims of the lawsuit. Prior to the settlement, OSUIT spokeswoman Shari Erwin denied the instructors promoted unsupervised climbing.
“I can say unequivocally that OSUIT has not, nor ever will, encourage unsupervised activity at the pole yard,” Erwin wrote.
Erwin also said because the climbing yard of the university is not electrified, they are not required to have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or any other outside agencies inspect the facility. However, she said the dangerous nature of the occupation means the program focuses on safety from the first day of classroom curriculum.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, working on power lines as an installer or repairer has the highest fatality rates among occupations with 26 killed on the job in 2016. Some advances have caused safety changes to the occupation, particularly the power lift that brings workers up to the top of poles externally. However, it is not always able to be used and the technique of climbing is still needed and used regularly.
The lawsuit has been settled, with the official decision to settle made in August. The O’Colly reached out to Griffin for a comment on the settlement but has received no comment.