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Court makes judgment about comparative fault and dismisses claim

Michael Spencer encountered a downed Detroit Edison power line that contacted a ladder atop his van.  Just as he extricated his vehicle from the charged line, he apparently saw an approaching school bus.  He attempted to hurry from his vehicle to warn the bus driver, but in the process slipped on a wet sidewalk, fell and suffered an injury.  He tried to hold the Power Company responsible for his fall and injury, pointing out that the entire misadventure stemmed from the downed line.

Misusing the statute that holds people responsible for their own injuries if they were more than fifty percent "at fault," the Court of Appeals ruled that Spencer could not sue DTE.  In a typical "Henry Saad" special, the judges ruled that the power company's alleged failure to meet its duty to maintain the power lines--no matter the explanation--could not equal this "Good Samaritan's" fault in exiting his pickup truck gracelessly. While we could understand a Court's reluctance to extend the chain of causation from the power line to every injury allegedly resulting from its detection (as opposed to direct injuries caused by contact) we don't see how it is true that "reasonable minds could not differ that Spencer's fault was greater than the power company's fault."  We'd think the electric company demonstrated substantial fault (given the danger of electrical transmission), if, for example, it was proven that the line had been allowed to deteriorate.  Further, if Spencer had limited time to warn an approaching school bus of a potentially mortal danger, we'd be hard-pressed to find substantial fault in a fall caused by hurrying and failing to protect himself adequately.  While Spencer's claim may have been tenuous under the Palsgraf-rule of proximate causation, it is not an example of overwhelming comparative fault.

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