SDG&E not liable for serious injury, jury says

by Michael Pines, San Diego Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

Every employee has the right to be safe on the job. But, despite the safety requirements set in place by OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, some occupations still put employees at risk. And the stakes become higher – and more complicated – when the lines of responsibility are blurred.

A recent personal injury incident in San Diego exemplifies the complexity that can surround cases involving injury on the job.

Shane Cahill, a window washer in Mission Bay, sued San Diego Gas & Electric after losing parts of his arm from coming into contact with a power line according to local reports. Nearly 12,000 volts of power surged through the man’s body, causing a great deal of pain and injury, after the pole he was using touched the live line.

According to jurors in the case, the accident was not the fault of San Diego Gas & Electric, as the jury sided 10-2 with the utility company. The verdict came after Cahill sued SDG&E for medical expenses that could range into the millions of dollars.

Arguments presented at trial noted that the power lines were too low and SDG&E did nothing to fix them causing negligence to Cahill who was grossly injured from the accident. But SDG&E placed the blame on Cahill, stating he should have seen the power lines.

“What happened to Mr. Cahill is a tragedy,” said the utility company in a statement. “SDG&E is deeply sympathetic for the injuries he suffered as a result of contact with our facilities. We appreciate the jury’s thoughtful and thorough review of the facts and their conclusion that SDG&E was not negligent and that what happened to Mr. Cahill was an accident.”

Nevertheless, Cahill must still face millions of dollars’ worth of medical expenses in addition to debilitating injuries that will last his lifetime.

The bottom line is there are many facts to be considered and many details to be analyzed, many of which are not available.

Join the conversation on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter, or leave your comments below: if you were a juror, how would you have decided on this case?