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Utility-Related Injuries and Fatalities: Navigating Complex Regulations and Unique Rules of Liability

Public vs. Investor-Owned Entities; Burdens of Proof; Defenses; Discovery; Insurance, Co-defendants, and Indemnity

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

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will guide counsel through pursuing or defending serious and catastrophic personal injury and property damage claims involving utilities. The program will explore commonly encountered fact patterns and allegations; special pleading, notice, service requirements; co-defendants and indemnity; problems in discovery; limits on damages; and more.


Each year thousands of personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage claims are brought against utilities as individual lawsuits or class actions. Utilities include suppliers of electricity, telecommunications, natural gas, cable tv, sewer, and water. Many incidents occur at construction or power plant sites and involve electrocution injuries. In addition to negligence, counsel may not be aware of other unique areas of liability.

Claims can arise from motor vehicle collisions, excavation, 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 also be special pleading or timing requirements.

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



  1. Types of utilities
  2. Types of incidents and injuries
  3. Theories of liability
  4. Co-defendants and indemnity
  5. Problems in discovery
  6. Limits on damages
  7. Special issues and defenses
    1. Multi-employer worksites
    2. Employee misconduct
    3. Affirmative defenses


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • 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?


Byrne, Jeremiah
Jeremiah A. Byrne

Frost Brown Todd

Mr. Byrne is a trial lawyer who concentrates his practice in tort and commercial litigation. With first chair trial...  |  Read More

Kwass, David
David L. Kwass

Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky

After nearly seven years of doing insurance defense work for corporate clients at one of the big Philadelphia law...  |  Read More

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