Suit Filed in Fourth of July Electrocution at Missouri Lake

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER | August 13, 2013

The mother of two Boone County children electrocuted in a 2012 Fourth of July boat dock accident at Lake of the Ozarks is suing the utility company that owns the popular Missouri recreational lake.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed in July in Morgan County by Angela Anderson of Ashland claims that Union Electric Co. failed to notify lake dock owners of the need to install electrical protection devices known as ground fault interrupters at the dock’s juncture with the seawall to prevent shocks in case of short circuits. The utility operates under the name Ameren Missouri.

Thirteen-year-old Alexandra Anderson and her 8-year-old brother Brayden Alexander died while swimming at the family’s vacation home in the lake’s Gravois arm. A 26-year-old Hazelwood woman died in an unrelated but similar incident several days later.

Columbia attorney Bogdan Susan, one of five lawyers representing Angela Anderson in the civil suit, declined comment and would not make his client available for an interview. Ameren attorneys in St. Louis and Jefferson City referred inquiries to company spokeswoman Trina Muniz, who also refused to discuss the pending litigation.

Ameren responded in court with a motion to dismiss the suit based on claims of immunity under state law. A hearing on that request is scheduled for Sept. 12.

Lake property owners who build new docks must pass a safety inspection by a local fire district in order to receive a construction permit from Ameren. But subsequent inspections are not required if docks aren’t moved or modified, leaving out countless docks first built decades ago along shoreline collectively bigger than the California coast. The newer requirement has only been in place since 2006.

In 2009, a Jefferson County civil jury found Ameren liable in a 2006 incident in which one teen died and three others were injured while swimming in Spring Lake near DeSoto. The utility blamed faulty dock wiring, but the jury awarded the victims’ families $2.3 million.

And the 2006 code changes at Lake of the Ozarks came only after 22-year-old Tyler Deeds of Olathe, Kan., died two years earlier when he was shocked by a dock cable and fell into the water while helping to remodel a lake house.

The new lawsuit said the dangers at the Anderson family dock were exacerbated by Ameren’s approval of nearby large marina and waterfront restaurant called Coconuts at the Lake. Increased boat traffic from the business subjected the family’s dock and others to increased “wear, tear and stress,” the complaint states.

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