Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dobson v. Louisiana Power and Light Company case brief

Dobson v. Louisiana Power and Light Company case summary
567 So.2d 569 (La. 1990)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff family appealed a judgment from the Court of Appeal, First Circuit, Parish of Tangipahoa (Louisiana) in their wrongful death suit, La. Civ. Code Ann. 2315.2, against defendant power company for a tree trimmer's electrocution death. The judgment reversed a finding that the tree trimmer was not at fault, found the tree trimmer 70 percent at fault, affirmed the finding that the power company was at fault, and reapportioned damages.

- The tree trimmer was electrocuted when his safety rope contacted with the power company's distribution line.
-The trial court found that the power company's negligence caused the accident because it had actual and constructive notice of the dangerous line, it did not adequately inspect the line or remove trees from its right-of-way, and it failed to place adequate warnings near the line.
-The trial court found that the tree trimmer was not negligent because he did not appreciate and was not aware of the special danger created by the high voltage lines.
-The court agreed with the appeals court that the trial court committed an error of law in finding the tree trimmer free of any fault.

-Even though the tree trimmer had no actual notice or knowledge of the danger presented, he was legally obliged to recognize that his work involved a risk of harm and that he had to take special precautions against the extreme dangers presented.

-Under a risk benefit analysis, the cost of taking precautions was greater for the tree trimmer than the power company. The tree trimmer was 40 percent at fault.
-Plaintiffs' damage award was apportioned pursuant to the statute.

Some of the various factors that may be relevant in determining the percentage or degree of fault to be assigned to each party include whether the conduct was mere inadvertence or engaged in with an awareness of the danger involved, the magnitude of the risk created by the conduct, including the number of persons endangered and the potential seriousness of the injury, the significance of what the actor was seeking to attain by his conduct, the actor's superior or inferior capacities, and the particular circumstances, such as the existence of an emergency requiring a hasty decision.

OUTCOME: The trial court judgment was reinstated as to the finding that the majority of the fault for the tree trimmer's death was attributable to the power company. The power company was 60 percent at fault and the tree trimmer was 40 percent at fault. The amount of damages awarded to plaintiffs by the trial court was reduced by 40 percent.

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