Case details

Defense claimed conductor had adequate clearance





Result type

Not present

amputation, arm, below the elbow, burns, electric shock amputation, orchiectomy, testicle, urological
On Sept. 3, 2008, plaintiff Shane Cahill, 34, a window washer employed by a window washing service, was working on the roof of a three-story condominium building in Mission Beach. The building consisted of two condos, of which the south-side condo was owned by Mauricio Maio and the north-side condo was owned by David Zeiger. The roof of the building was owned by Nantasket Court Condominium Association, which covered all public aspects for both condos. In order to clean a 3-foot-tall glass panel railing that encircled the roof of the building, which enclosed two Jacuzzi tubs, Cahill extended a tucker pole, or a metal telescoping pole, about 10 feet or greater. While gleaning one of the glass panels, the pole came into contact with a 12-kilobyte overhead conductor, causing Cahill to receive an electric shock. Cahill sued the owner of the overhead conductor, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. He alleged that the defendant was negligent in the placement of the conductor, creating a dangerous condition. He further alleged that this negligence was in violation of the California Public Utilities Commission General Order 95 standards for clearances for overhead electric line conductors. SDG&E subsequently filed cross-complaints against Maio, Zeiger and Nantasket Court Condominium Association. It alleged that these cross-defendants were liable for the accident by violating the height requirement for buildings in the Mission Bay area of San Diego and violating the building code. Cahill settled with the property owners prior to filing the lawsuit against SDG&E. The cross-defendants obtained a good faith settlement in the amount of $25,000 and were dismissed from the case. At trial, Cahill claimed that SDG&E violated the California Public Utilities Commission standards for line clearances, alleging that the requirement for line clearances above Jacuzzis was a 25-foot radial clearance, based on the National Electric Code. Counsel for SDG&E noted that buildings in San Diego have a 30-foot height limitation and that the subject building was built in 1982 at a height of 30 feet, but that the property owners subsequently added the party deck without permits or variances. As such, counsel contended that the property owners were in violation of the height requirements and San Diego Building Codes. SDG&E’s counsel further argued that had the building owners not put the glass railing on the roof, then Cahill would not have been there in the first place. SDG&E claimed that the National Electric Code is not a legal requirement in California and that the state law required adherence to the California Public Utilities Commission’s tariffs, which required at least a 12-foot vertical clearance for a rooftop or walkable surface or at least an 8-foot vertical clearance above a non-walkable surface. Thus, it argued that that it was in compliance with the orders, noting that the walkable surface from the rooftop to the conductor was 14.3 feet and from the top of the glass railing, the non-walkable surface, was 8.6 feet., Cahill sustained electrical burns after being shocked and was transported to the UCSD Regional Burn Center after Maio, who was in the building at the time of the accident, called 911. At the center, Cahill underwent below-the-elbow amputations of both arms. He also lost his right testicle. Cahill now has prostheses for both hands, but he is still determined to be unstable. He alleged that although he is not employed currently, he is still covered under worker’s compensation and his recovery progress is still continuing. Cahill claimed that he led an active life prior to the accident, including riding motorcycles, but he remains positive.
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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