CHARLESTON – Appalachian Power Company claims it should not have to pay punitive damages to a man who filed a lawsuit against it after he says a faulty security gate arm got him fired.
Mark Webb filed a lawsuit June 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court against American Electric Power. Appalachian Power Company, which says it was incorrectly identified in Webb's suit as American Electric Power, removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on July 16.
In his suit, Webb claims he was a dump truck driver for a company called Headwaters, Inc.
He says that on Dec. 5, 2008, he was entering an AEP property in Glasgow through a security gate.
According to his complaint, as Webb was going through the gate, the arm came down on the truck, causing minimal damage to the truck and more damage to the gate.
Webb says an employee of AEP called his employer to say they did not want Webb on AEP property again.
Because of this call, Webb says he was fired from his job.
He's seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
But Appalachian Power Company denies Webb's allegations against it andclaims it should not be required to pay any punitive damages to Webb.
"It is a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution to impose punitive damages, which are penal in nature, against a civil defendant upon a plaintiff satisfying a burden of proof which is less than the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' burden of proof required in criminal cases," the electric company's answer to Webb's complaint says.
In addition, Appalachian Power Company blames Webb and other intervening acts for causing his termination.
"If Plaintiff suffered from any of the damages alleged in the Complaint, such damages were caused solely by conduct of persons, firms and/or corporations other than APCo," its answer says. "APCO cannot be held liable for the acts or omissions of such persons, firms or corporations."
In its answer, Appalachian Power Company is asking the court to rule it is not liable for any of Webb's damages and is asking the court to dismiss the case with prejudice , awarding the company costs and attorney's fees.
J. Michael Ranson, Cynthia M. Ranson and George B. Morrone are representing Webb.
Brian R. Swiger and Matthew S. Casto of Jackson Kelly in Charleston are representing Appalachian Power Company.
U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-813