Court reinstates electrocution case arising out of downed power line that was allegedly neglected for years
The Estate of Catherine Dawn Skidmore sued Consumers Energy Corporation in Calhoun County. Skidmore was electrocuted when she came into contact with a live, downed power line. She had observed the flash and fire caused by the line behind the neighbor's house and ran to the other end of his home to warn him. The power line contacted her leg in the dark yard and electrocuted her. Consumers secured summary disposition of the case by arguing that it owed no duty to a woman who intentionally approached a downed line.
The family appealed. The Court of Appeals noted that the family presented expert opinion and neighbor testimony confirming that the line had suffered numerous outages in the past several years and was not properly maintained. It cited a long string of legal precedents establishing the high degree of duty associated with operating dangerous high voltage. Applying those cases to the instant situation, the Court noted that it was a factual issue for jurors to determine whether Consumers was negligent, and if so, the degree of the "rescuer's" comparative fault. Typically, persons who expose themselves to danger to assist someone in danger are "foreseeable" and we take into account the emergency situation in analyzing their fault. The claim should not have been dismissed summarily.