HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – They’re not too big to sue. An attorney in Huntsville scored a big win at the Supreme Court this year. The ruling means for a TVA lawsuit six years after a man was killed in a boating accident on the Tennessee River.
“From December 21 to January 14th, so about three weeks, I did absolutely nothing but prepare,” attorney Taylor Rouse said.
For Rouse, the case started as a research project. “They were replacing overhead transmission lines over the Tennessee River.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority was working on a downed high-voltage line along the river in July of 2013. Fishermen Anthony Szozda and Gary Thacker set out on a bass boat from Ingalls Harbor in Decatur and struck the metal cable — killing Szozda.
“Because the TVA was created by Congress, it’s a federally chartered corporation. It’s able to sue and be sued under its own corporate name,” Rouse said.
The case was thrown out of Alabama District Court. So, Rouse and his firm Conchin, Cloud and Cole filed it to the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court gets about 8,000 petitions a year and they take about 75 or 80. So they only hear about 1 percent of cases they get asked to hear,” Rouse said.
Not even five years out of law school, Rouse got the chance most attorneys will never see in a lifetime of practicing, to fly to D.C. and make his case.
On January 14, he went before the bench.
“It was very intimidating, especially for the first few minutes,” Rouse was given a half hour for oral arguments and questioning. What he got back on Monday was an 11-page opinion by Justice Elena Kagan. All nine justices agreed his suit against the TVA holds water.
“It’s not just great for our clients, it’s great for all of the people in north Alabama and people in the seven states where the TVA operates,” Rouse said.
Rouse says the case isn’t over by a long shot. He’s now seeking a judgment or a settlement for Thacker and Szozda’s family.
Rouse says the suit now heads back to the U.S. District Court in Alabama meaning the case will be tried in either Birmingham or Huntsville.