Lineman Burned After Being Electrocuted While Working on Track

A jury in federal court in Bridgeport deliberated only 90 minutes Wednesday before awarding a Metro-North apprentice lineman $2 million for burns he received after being electrocuted while working on the railroad's track in the Devon section of Milford.

The jury verdict awarded to Terrance Curly was the largest ever obtained in any federal court against Metro-North Commuter Railroad, according to John G. DiPersia, a New Haven lawyer representing the victim.

Daniel Brucker, a spokesman for the railroad, said Metro-North believes the award is "excessive" and is "leaning toward an appeal."

The railroad's lawyer, Patrick Flaherty of Hartford, who tried the case, did not return a telephone call.

On Monday, the six-member jury heard Curly, 32 of Brewster, NY, graphically describe how he was burned on July 30, 1989.

Curly said he was told by his foreman, William Callahan, to pick up and cut a wire that turned out to be a live electrical connection.

The action sent 13,200 volts through his body and set him aflame.

"My shirt melted into my skin," he told the jury.

He spent the next several weeks in the Bridgeport Hospital burn unit undergoing treatment and skin grafts for the second degree burns that covered 20 percent of his body.

Medical bills of $36,000 were submitted into evidence during the trial before U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly.

"We thought it was very just and fair," DiPersia said of the award. "He [Curly] was treated very callously by the railroad. They never reached out and tried to help him."

Instead, DiPersia said Metro-North fired Curly just one day after he returned to work on April 25 of this year.

"They said they fired him because he was on medication," said DiPersia. "They knew for weeks he was on medication for the psychological trauma [post traumatic stress disorder] the injury caused."

Brucker, disputing this claim, said Curly is still an employee of the railroad but is on long-term disability. He also said Callahan has been disqualified from his foreman job, but is still employed.

DiPersia also accused Metro-North of hiring a private investigator to conduct surveillance of his client. None of that information was introduced during the three-day trial.