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ARTICLE ID 186074

$________ Utility Negligence – Stray electrical current from utility company runs through the plaintiff’s backyard causing electrical shocks, emotional distress, and depreciation in property value – Failure to properly safeguard the electrical distribution system.

Superior

In this negligence action, the plaintiffs sued the defendant utility company for negligence after sustaining shocks in their backyard when coming in contact with water in their pool and hot tub, and metal objects. The problem was eventually traced to a stray current from the defendant’s overloaded electrical wires. The defendant utility company remedied the situation and denied that it was negligent.

In July of ________, the plaintiff returned home from a family vacation and opened his hot tub in his backyard in order to service the water. When the plaintiff stuck his hand in the water he received an electrical shock. He removed his hand and tested the water again and again was shocked. Calling his wife to the hot tub he asked her to test the water and while wearing sneakers she tested the water and was not shocked. Upon removing her sneakers she tested the water again and received a shock. The plaintiffs called an electrician who traced the problem to the defendant’s electrical distribution system.

The defendants and the public utility board were called in and determined that the problem was "very complex and could be solved only by applying a system wide solution." After spending significant money to correct various problems caused by the stray electrical currents, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants. The plaintiffs asserted various theories of liability, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, inverse condemnation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant undertook extensive efforts over a period of several years to correct the problem. The extent to which those efforts succeeded was a contested issue at the trial of this case.

The plaintiffs presented evidence from a real estate expert who asserted that the market value of the plaintiff’s property was reduced over $________ from the stigma of the situation with the electrical shocks. The plaintiffs also presented testimony by their treating psychiatrist and an expert psychologist, who expressed the opinion that plaintiffs’ fear of the stray currents had caused them to suffer from anxiety, which was being treated by medication. The defendants argued that the problem was corrected and that the defendants were not negligent.After a 12 day trial in ________, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for nuisance, awarding them $________ for property damage and $________ for interference with the use of their property. The jury also determined that there was no basis for an award of damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress. For the next three years the case was tied up with appeals and in August of ________ the appellate court affirmed the jury’s verdict that the utility company had created a nuisance and affirmed the monetary award.

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