JURY VERDICT: Plaintiff electrocuted when backhoe contacted underground power line
On February 4, 1988, an experienced 27-year-old equipment operator was operating a backhoe on a new residential construction project in Southern California. The operator was digging a trench between the house and the street for the purposes of laying down and installing a sewer line. During the course of digging, the backhoe contacted and severed a live 12,000 volt underground Edison cable. The live voltage electrified the backhoe and the operator himself, causing serious, long-term injuries.
Doctors diagnosed the operator as having suffered mild cognitive damage in addition to physical injuries of carpal tunnel syndrome, brachial plexus injury and reflex sympathetic dystrophy in his right (primary) arm. The severity of these injuries rendered him totally disabled and unemployed.
Shortly following the accident, the operator hired the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff to represent him in a negligence lawsuit against Edison and Inland Valley Construction. The plaintiff team claimed that Inland Valley Construction mismarked the location of the underground cable and furthermore that Edison improperly laid that cable as it had been buried at a depth of only 32-38 inches when cable of that high a voltage should have been buried at a minimum of 48 inches according to Edison’s own customs.
The case ultimately went to trial during which the defense argued that the underground cable in question had been properly buried per General Order 128 of California’s Public Utilities Commision and that its locations were appropriately marked. The defense further argued the accident was the fault of the operator’s own negligence or the negligence of his direct employer. The defense disputed the operator’s brain damage and the extent of the injuries to the operator’s right arm.
At the end of the trial, the jury ruled unanimously in the Plaintiff’s favor and awarded a total of $1,342,160.73; $729,160.37 economic, $613,000 general damages, 10% from Inland Valley and 90% from Edison.