Defendant company shut 51 years ago, dismissal says

By Kelly Holleran | Sep 17, 2009

CHARLESTON -- An electric company is asking the federal court to dismiss a lawsuit a Mingo County man filed against a company that has been defunct for more than 50 years.

William Hatfiled filed a complaint June 22 in Mingo Circuit Court against Appalachian Electric Power Company and an unknown person referred to only as John Doe.

In his complaint, Hatfield claims he requested John Doe to trim certain trees on his property on Nov. 23, 2004, because Hatfield was concerned the trees were a danger as they were close to power lines.

However, John Doe refused to trim the trees because he said they did not pose an immediate threat, according to the complaint.

But on June 21, 2007, during a high wind, the trees fell over and struck the power lines in the area, the suit states.

At the time the trees fell, Hatfield was standing in close proximity to the power lines and was severely shocked, the complaint says.

Because of the incident, Hatfield claims he suffered severe injuries, incurred medical costs and lost wages.

Hatfield is seeking unspecified damages, plus other relief the court deems just.

But Appalachian Power Company says Hatfield's complaint should be dismissed because he filed suit against a defunct company.

"According to information from the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office, Appalachian Electric Power Company was terminated in 1958 and ceased to exist over fifty years ago," the response states. "APCO is the corporation that maintains the electric power lines located in Mingo County, West Virginia which appears to be the location of the alleged incident."

In addition, Hatfield's complaint was filed after the two-year statute of limitations expired, the response says.

"According to the Complaint in this action, the alleged shocking occurred on June 21, 2007," Appalachian Power Company wrote in its response. "However, the subject Complaint was not filed until June 22, 2009."

Appalachian Power Company removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Aug. 5, claiming Hatfield is seeking more than $75,000. In addition, because Appalachian Power Company is a Virginia corporation and because Hatfield is a West Virginia resident, diversity of jurisdiction exists.

Michael T. Clifford and Martin R. Smith of Charleston will be representing Hatfield.

Melissa Dodd Veltri and Erin E. Rich of Huddleston Bolen in Huntington will be representing Appalachian Power Company.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-898

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