The parents of John Harrison Doucet have filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Power and the Gulfport Yacht Club over the “catastrophic” and life-altering burns he suffered from a power line outside the yacht club.
Acting as his conservators, Tommy and Ruth Doucet filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Harrison County Circuit Court. John Harrison, who turned 21 in June, has had both of his legs and his right arm amputated. He will require hospitalizations and care for the rest of his life, the lawsuit says.
Gulfport attorney Joe Sam Owen, who filed the lawsuit, is asking the court for damages from Mississippi Power and the yacht club to compensate him for his “catastrophic injuries,” including past and future medical expenses, plus punitive damages.
The lawsuit claims the power company was negligent in placing the lines over a sailboat rigging area. John Harrison was disengaging a trailer hitch from a sailboat when it came into contact with the overhead power line.
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He suffered third- and fourth-degree burns over 85 percent of his body, which the lawsuit says was consumed in flames.
It says the high-voltage power line served tenants at the state Port of Gulfport and once was on port property. The line was moved, the lawsuit says, to accommodate port tenants and then hung over the rigging yard.
The power company over the years inspected the poles, the lawsuit says, but paid little attention to the power line. Mississippi Power was willing to spend large sums for business that would bring in revenue but documenting inspection and assessment of power lines is “hit and miss.”
The lawsuit says, “The objective of MPC was revenue over risk.”
The Yacht Club, where John Harrison had spent summers as a sailing instructor, was negligent in protecting its guests and allowing the overhead power line to trespass over a rigging area, the lawsuit claims.
Guidelines and standards for marinas recommend that power lines be buried in areas where electric shock can occur, the lawsuit says.
It also describes John Harrison’s months-long stay at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga., along with the painful treatments and infections he endured. He suffered rampant infections, impaired kidney function, cardiac staph infections, skin grafts and rejection, the lawsuit says.
He may or may not be a candidate for prosthesis, the lawsuit says. His suffering, the lawsuit says, has been indescribable.
A statement that Mississippi Power emailed to the Sun Herald said:
“Mississippi Power is aware of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. John Harrison Doucet. He and his family remain in the thoughts and prayers of every Mississippi Power employee. The safety of our customers, the public and Mississippi Power’s employees is, and has always been, a top priority of Mississippi Power. It is Mississippi Power’s practice not to comment on pending litigation.”