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Utility Companies Must Protect Against Electrocution

Electrocution cases don’t happen all that often. When they do, they are tragic – often fatal. You need a lawyer who knows electrocution law and can hold the power companies responsible.

On July 19, 2011, Ralph and Catherine Skidmore saw a  power line fall on top of a neighbor’s van. The neighbor, Roody Cooper, said the power line was “pulling itself through the bush” in his back yard.

Catherine was frantic. She “bolted out of the house” to warn Cooper, running up to the door on the opposite corner of the house. But she couldn’t see the line or hear neighbors as they yelled for her to stop.

The power line twisted around Catherine’s legs, electrocuting her and setting her on fire. She died from her injuries.

Consumers Energy had problems with those power lines for decades. After a wind storm in 2011, a pole broke because the power lines were too tight. It was repaired by connecting a short pole to the larger, broken pole. That was the second time in 2 years that Ralph had a high voltage power line in his yard.

But when Ralph sued Consumers Energy for the wrongful death of his wife, the utility company refused to admit it was responsible for the death. The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed.

Wrongful Death in Electrocution Cases

Wrongful death is a negligence lawsuit – it claims the defendant didn’t do something it was legally required to do. To prove negligence by a utility company, an electrocution attorney must show:

  • That the company owed that person a duty of care;
  • That the company didn’t live up to that duty;
  • That the person was injured; and
  • That the company’s behavior caused the injury.

In an earlier case, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that “a power company has an obligation to reasonably inspect and repair wires. . . to discover and remedy hazards and defects.” It called the electricity carried in the wires “inherently dangerous.”

Applying this case to a downed power line, the Court of Appeals found that a live wire on the ground is even more dangerous than wires in the air. It said the company should have predicted that people could be using the streets and yards where residential power lines could fall. So if Christina’s use was reasonable, Consumers’ Energy had a duty to protect her from unreasonable dangers.

And that includes attempting a rescue. Rescuers are a risk power companies should anticipate, as long as they are acting reasonably. Because the court couldn’t tell if Christina was being reasonably safe, it sent the case back for a trial.

Electrocution cases are tragic, confusing, and difficult. Your family needs someone with experience to handle these tough wrongful death actions. David Christensen from Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan, has handled a number of electrocution cases. He will help you and your family get the recovery you need. If you have lost a loved one to a downed power line, contact Christensen Law today to schedule an appointment.