When someone is working on a job, and is injured by another business or person, or the actions of another business or person, does that business or person owe the injured person a duty of care? In order to fully explain this, let’s look at a case recently decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals.
The Case: IPL v. Gammon
Joshua Gammon worked for a window and roofing company, and worked on and around roofs, which can be near power lines. While on a roof, Gammon was installing some metal trim near some uninsulated power lines owned by the Indianapolis Power and Lighting Company (IPL). Gammon was electrocuted while on the roof, and later filed suit against IPL.
IPL argued pre-trial that they did not owe Gammon a duty of reasonable care and filed a summary judgement motion. However, both IPL and Gammon noted that electric companies do owe a duty to exercise care such that a person of reasonable prudence would use under similar circumstances. Gammon stated that the above holding should apply to this case as well, but one sentence after that statement in the case Rogers v. Grunden, there is a statement that says the duty of care owed when a company is distributing electricity is that they keep electric lines insulated in places where the general public may come into contact with them.
The court here noted that the exception noted above has been applied in other cases as well. In the case Spudich v. N. Ind. Public Service Company, the court stated that power lines do not need to be insulated if they are sufficiently isolated and there would be no reasonable likelihood of the general public coming into contact with those lines. In Spudich, the court stated that because the plaintiff came into contact with the uninsulated power lines while he was working that the duty to keep those lines insulated did not apply. The lines he was working on were sufficiently isolated that the general public would not come into contact with them.
Finally, Gammon argued that his injury was foreseeable, because of the danger of the power lines. However, the court here held that because Gammon often worked on and around power lines, he knew of the danger and the injury he suffered was not foreseeable.
What Does This Mean?
This case details when utility companies owe both the general public and those people who work on power or sewer lines a duty of reasonable care. This essentially details that if you are someone who works with power lines or on sewer lines, you are supposed to know the danger that accompanies that. It is always important to be careful when dealing with these things. But if you are part of the general public, these companies do owe you a duty of care.
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