South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Electric Company's Method of Operation of High-Voltage Lines Did Not Breach Duty of Care to Injured Party
Description Michigan high court held that a power company did not violate any duty of care it had to a property owner who was injured when he caused a high-voltage line to be severed. The line dropped to the ground and injured the property owner when the electricity flowed through the wet ground and shocked and burned him.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Duty of Care; Foreseeability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts For 20 years, Valcaniant owned a business that was located on a four-acre gravel lot. At the back of the lot, 25 feet in the air, there were non-insulated power lines owned by Detroit Edison. Valcaniant was aware of the power lines and the danger they posed. One day he was instructing a dump truck driver on where to deliver a load of dirt at the back of the property. The top of the dump truck hit a power line and broke it. When the line hit the ground, which was wet, the electricity flowed through the ground and injured Valcaniant. The sensors in the electric lines attempted to restart the power flow three times, each time furthering Valcaniant's injuries. He sued Edison contending that the way the sensors were set, causing the electricity to be turned on several times after the line snapped, caused his injuries. The district court dismissed the suit, holding that Edison did not violate any duty. Valcaniant appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The injuries to Valcaniant were not foreseeable and so Edison had no legal duty to anticipate that he might be injured when the automatic sensors briefly re-energized the power lines, as it was designed to do. Edison could have no knowledge that Valcaniant would have a truck sever the lines and drop them on to wet ground.

Citation Valcaniant v. Detriot Edison Co., --- NW2d --- (2004 WL 1118723, Sup. Ct., Mich., 2004)

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