SW Legal studies in Business

Power Company Did Not Violate Duty of Care in Placement of Power Lines
Description

Appeals court held that an electric power company had violated no duty of care to two workers killed when a large tent they were installing struck a power line. The power company had no notice of the construction, and the power lines were in a reasonable location.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Duty; Death; Electricity; Utility

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Koch and Cook worked for a company that installs equipment for events. They were installing a large tent for a festival held at an open field. When they pushed the center pole up in the tent, it hit a power line that was 25 feet above the ground and electrocuted them. The estates of Koch and Cook sued Southwestern Electric Power Company, SWEPCO, for negligence in locating and maintaining power lines. Plaintiffs contend that SWEPCO was negligent for not burying the power lines since the field was often used for public events and exposing people to danger. The district court dismissed the suit on the ground that SWEPCO has no legal duty to decedents because the company had no notice that they would be working around the power lines. Plaintiffs appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Under Arkansas statutory and common law, utilities have a duty to act with reasonable care in the delivery of services. A utility can violate its duty if it fails to anticipate and guard against events which may reasonably be expected to happen. The duty was not violated here as SWEPCO had no notice that a festival would occur in the field and that tall structures would be used. Had the utility been notified, then it would have had an obligation to warn those engaged in construction for the festival.

Citation

Koch v. Southwestern Electric Power Co., 544 F.3d 906 (8th Cir., 2008)

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