JACKSON – A Tippah Electric Power Association lineman’s 2010 injuries were self-inflicted and his financial damages correctly denied, the Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed this week.
In a 7-3 decision, Judge Virginia Carlton wrote that testimony and evidence provided at a Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission hearing led an administrative judge to rule that Lonnie Smith, then 46 and a Ripley alderman, “intentionally injured himself” and was due no compensation.
Smith’s injury occurred April 29, 2010, when he received an extensive electric shock, which caused him the loss of both hands.
“The claimant specifically denied intentionally grabbing the wire to electrocute himself,” his MWCC record states.
Publicly unknown at the time of Smith’s injury was his involvement in the April 2010 shooting death of Antrozon Wallace of Ripley. Smith was charged in August 2010 with capital murder in Wallace’s death and in November 2011 pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with eight years suspended, and is serving his time in the hospital unit of Mississippi State Prison.
In the job-related injury, Smith reportedly told the hearing judge he was working to change underground service for a trailer, when he dropped something in the extension bucket and when he came back up he contacted a hot wire. Witnesses said that after they heard the electrical arc, they saw Smith grip “primary and neutral” lines.
MWCC can compensate a worker for an accidental injury or accidental death arising from his or her work.
Carlton noted that the Workers Compensation administrative judge found Smith’s testimony “not credible” about the incident and events leading up to it.
Smith appealed to the Court of Appeals, and may yet ask the Mississippi Supreme Court for another review.
Judges Donna Barnes and Ceola James disagreed, joining Judge Tyree Irving’s minority opinion to reverse the commission’s finding and send it back to determine benefits.
Irving states that the MWCC judge’s decision was “based on assumptions rather than substantial evidence.”
“The fact remains that there were no eyewitnesses to this incident,” he writes.