Coming in at No. 8 of the top 10 stories for 2021 in The T&D region: An Orangeburg County jury awarded a former Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities lineman $63 million.

On Nov. 12, following a two-week trial, the jury deliberated four hours and awarded $63 million to James Westly Garvin, a lineman who was electrocuted on June 27, 2016. Garvin’s injury resulted in the amputations of both of his arms.

The jury’s verdict was against Dominion South Carolina, formerly known as S.C. Electric & Gas.

Orangeburg attorney David Williams said the verdict against Dominion will lead to a safer utility industry.

“The jury won’t hear about it. They won’t hear about the lives they saved, but I want them to know they can rest assured they just saved lives. They saved lives because anyone in the utility industry who hears about this verdict should take the time to learn from it,” said Williams, of Williams & Williams Attorneys at Law.

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Garvin came in contact with a 14,000-volt powerline for a short while as he and three other linemen were working on Fanfare Drive, just off of Belleville Road in Orangeburg.

Garvin received his training from S.C. Electric & Gas, which trained linemen in municipalities across the state, including Orangeburg. Dominion Energy bought SCE&G, and its parent company SCANA, in 2019.

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Williams argued that SCE&G didn’t properly train Garvin about the use of rubber sleeves covering the arms and shoulders down to the elbows, in addition to protective gloves.

Steven Pugh, who represented Dominion in the case, said in closing arguments, “(Orangeburg) DPU had to ensure that Mr. Garvin was trained on DPU’s safety practices and DPU’s decision with regard to PPE and insulating protective equipment and ensure that it’s being used.”

Pugh said that Garvin’s training by then-S.C. Electric & Gas was “exactly what SCAMPS wanted taught and exactly what SCAMPS approved to be taught.” SCAMPS is an acronym for the S.C. Association of Municipal Power Systems.

Pugh further argued that Garvin’s training complied with Occupational Safety and Health Association and National Electric Safety Code standards.

Williams asked the jury to consider awarding Garvin $50 million.

The jury awarded a total of $90 million, but reduced the award to 70% of the total, which is $63 million. The jury said Garvin was 30% negligent but Dominion South Carolina was 70% negligent.

Ten days after the jury rendered its verdict, Dominion filed paperwork at the Orangeburg County Courthouse calling for a new trial or for a judge to set aside the jury’s verdict and rule in favor of Dominion.

In court filings, Dominion’s attorneys Steven J. Pugh and I.S. Leevy Johnson argued, in part, that Williams’ claim Dominion was negligent is “actually one for educational malpractice, which is non-viable in South Carolina.”

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Pugh and Leevy also claim the court should grant a new trial because the “verdict was so excessive as to shock the conscience of the court” and was unjustified.

They argued the trial judge didn’t give proper instructions to the jury prior to their deliberations.

Dominion’s attorneys also allege the court erred in qualifying several “expert witnesses” called by Williams during the trial.

A judge will decide at a later date whether to grant Dominion’s requests.

As for any safety changes made at DPU after Garvin’s electrocution and case filing, DPU Manager Warren Harley said, “The DPU certainly wishes Mr. Garvin all the best in the future. Regarding the decision of the jury, we respect their decision and the legal process. As for the DPU and our safety programs, we routinely review our policies and procedures to ensure we are providing the safest working environment for our team members as possible.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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