Major carrier AT&T was partly responsible for an equipment failure that led to Thomas Jeglum plummeting 50 feet from a cell tower, and now the company is paying out a $30 million settlement to help Jeglum with life and care expenses. Currently, Jeglum is in a full-time care facility in California, where's he's being cared for on a daily basis and treated for a brain injury that's thought to be permanent. This payout will allow Jeglum to receive a much higher standard of care for the rest of his expected lifetime, increasing the probability that he could make a full recovery or at least work through his newfound disability enough to begin gaining back some degree of independence.
The fall happened in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Jeglum was performing some routine maintenance on a cell tower owned by an AT&T subsidiary. About 50 feet up, one of the built-in ladder rungs on the tower shifted and broke, causing Jeglum to lose his balance and fall to the ground. He was in a coma for a few months, and had fractures in his spine, arms, legs, and pelvis. He was working for a local firm called Jacobs Telecommunications when the fall happened, but the firm assumed no responsibility because the defective tower was technically owned by AT&T. He was represented by local law firm Kilne & Specter, who was ready to present a full negligence case against AT&T if the proposed settlement did not go through.
This case is one of many similar falls that have been plaguing industry technicians of late. Data from Pro Publica indicated that around half of falling deaths in tower technicians between 2003 and 2011 happened with cell towers, which tend to take a wider variety of shapes than larger, more traditional communications equipment. They're also often placed inconspicuously or in out-of-the-way places. The statistics may well rise in the near future, as many wireless carriers are working on plans to roll out 5G-friendly cell equipment, which will involve climbing towers to replace and reconfigure a large amount of equipment. Tower climbing is a dangerous job, to be sure, but safety guidelines do exist, and the job pays well enough that it makes a tempting proposition for qualified technicians.