Personal Injury Claims Involving Utilities: Electrocution, Low-Hanging Wires, Motor Vehicle Collisions

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will guide counsel on litigating accidents and injuries caused by utilities, whether from motor vehicle accidents or gross negligence in maintaining equipment or bringing on untrained "extras" to augment crews. The program will cover special issues that may arise in bringing or defending these claims against utilities.


Each year thousands of personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage claims are brought against utilities as individual lawsuits or class actions. Many incidents occur at construction sites or power plant sites. In addition to negligence, counsel may not be aware of other unique areas of liability.

Claims can arise from motor vehicle collisions, faulty installation, negligent failure to maintain equipment, downed wires, and sometimes even criminal negligence. Personal injuries include shocks, burns, catastrophic fires or floods, death, severe physical injury, and massive property damage. Because utilities often "lend" their crews to other utilities, for example, in restoration efforts, it may be difficult to identify all the potential defendants.

Proving that the utility company is liable for damages requires understanding the complex state, federal, and other regulations that govern operations. Certain, but not all, duties are nondelegable. The utility may have some level of immunity for certain claims, depending on whether the utility is public or private. There may be special pleading or timing requirements.

Listen as this experienced panel discusses bringing suit and recovering for injuries by utilities.



  1. Highly regulated nature of utilities
  2. Types of accidents
    1. Motor vehicle
    2. Contact with live wires
    3. Property damage
    4. Failure to maintain equipment
    5. Improper signage
    6. Toxic torts
    7. Premises liability
  3. Special pleading, notice, service requirements
  4. Problems in discovery
  5. Limits on damages
  6. Special issues and defenses
    1. Multi-employer worksites
    2. Employee misconduct
    3. Affirmative defenses


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What is unique about suing or defending utilities?
  • Do utilities enjoy special defenses or immunities, and how can defense counsel use them effectively?
  • What special discovery problems must be overcome by the plaintiff?
  • Do contributory negligence defenses apply?
  • What are the standards for maintenance and repair for different types of utilities?
  • How has the PG&E guilty plea in California impacted how utilities defend themselves?


Gaffrey, Marc
Marc S. Gaffrey

Hoagland Longo Moran Dunst & Doukas

Mr. Gaffrey tries asbestos cases and oversees the trial teams of several of his clients both locally in NY and NJ and...  |  Read More

Kearns, Michael
Michael T. Kearns

Hoagland Longo Moran Dunst & Doukas

Mr. Kearns is a Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Civil Trial Attorney and Partner in the firm. His...  |  Read More

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