What to do about an electrical fault caused by the power company which resulted in electrocution and appliance failure?

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What to do about an electrical fault caused by the power company which resulted in electrocution and appliance failure?

Last Friday there was a electrical fault that caused my house to become energized.I went outside to investigate the power box as the lights inside my house were flickering really badly. When I went out my back door and grabbed the railing on my stairs, which are metal, I got a good dose of electricity surging through me. I managed to let go of the railing and called the power company to place a emergency call with them. They came out and discovered that my neutral line that leads away from my house, was installed incorrectly. Who is responsible for replacing my appliances?

Asked on June 21, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the power company for negligence due to the neutral line not being installed properly.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable electric company would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).

In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care), actual cause, proximate cause and damages.  Actual cause means but for the neutral line not being installed properly, would your appliances have been damaged?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening acts which would relieve the electric company of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs or replacement of your appliances.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by selecting replacement appliances that are comparable to the damaged items.  If you were to select the most expensive replacement appliances you could find, your damages would be reduced accordingly.

If you had required medical treatment for the electric shock, you would have also had a separate personal injury claim.


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