JACKSON – Former Tippah Power employee Lonnie Smith will get a new hearing over denial of his Worker’s Comp appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed Thursday.
Smith lost both arms when he came in contact with a power line in April 2010.
While he admits his memory of that day is “foggy,” he maintains the incident occurred after he moved the utility bucket he was working too close to the lines and accidentally touched them when he came up from retrieving a knife he said he’d dropped in the bucket.
Smith appealed to the higher court after his claims were rejected by an administrative judge, the Worker’s Compensation Commission and the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
In asking for a re-examination of the issues, called a “writ of certiorari,” Smith’s attorney, Robert Whitwell, tells MSSC that these rejections in this “unusual worker’s compensation case” directly contradict well-established Mississippi law.
The case represented by law partners John S. Farese and Anthony Farese of Ashland after Whitwell was appointed a chancery judge.
“Specifically, it was assumed that (Smith) attempted to commit suicide,” the appeal states about what happened in 2010.
The new court examination came on a 5-4 vote. For it were justices Jess Dickinson, Ann Lamar, Jim Kitchens, David Chandler and Leslie King. To deny it were Chief Justice William Waller Jr. with justices Michael Randolph, Phillip Pierce and Josiah Coleman.
No more is stated about the decision except to grant Smith’s petition.
But the petition notes that despite the COA rejection, the three judges who heard arguments in the case favored a rehearing. They are judges Tyree Irving, Donna Barnes and Ceola James.
In “doubtful cases,” Smith’s petition notes, the court’s long-standing rule is to grant them “to fulfill the beneficient purposes of the statute.”
As the incident was investigated, authorities suggested that Smith tried to kill himself because he feared imminent arrest after the body of Antrozon D. Wallace was found April 19, 2010, in Tippah County.
While Smith was arrested and charged with capital murder in the death in August 2010, his appeal insists he had no reason to believe he was about to be arrested or fired.
In November 2011, Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Wallace’s death and is serving a 12-year sentence.