The decedent was a boy who lost his balance on a bridge and grabbed a live wire. The wire was maintained by defendant and was charged with high voltage. Plaintiff, as the administrator of decedent’s estate, brought a negligence action against defendant.
Defendant is liable for damages to plaintiff’s probable future but for defendant’s negligence.
Defendent’s wire stretched above the framework of a public bridge between girders. The current in the wires was mechanically shut off during the day, but plaintiff knew that currents still sometimes ran through the wires anyway. The wires were also not insulated for protection against contact. The decedent and other boys used to play on the bridge. On the day of the incident, the decedent lost his balance while sitting on a girder. He instinctively grabbed one of the wires to keep himself from falling, but the wire happened to be charged with a high voltage current that electrocuted him.
The administrator of the decedent’s estate sued defendant, claiming defendant had negligently caused the boy’s death.
Whether the company that maintained the wire could be held liable for the boy’s death and to what extent was the company liable?
Court overruled defendant’s exception to trial court’s entry of judgment for plaintiff administrator of the decedent’s estate, finding evidence sufficient to hold defendant liable for exposing the decedent to dangerously charged wires.
Defendant had no duty to protect the decedent from falling. Defendant’s only liability was in exposing the decedent to the danger of the high voltage wires. The Court explained that if but for the current in the wires, the boy would have fallen off the bridge or into the river, either of which would have made him killed or seriously injured.
However, defendant was still liable for exposing the decedent to charged wires. If it were found the boy would have dead, then defendant deprived the decedent not of a life of normal expectancy, but of one too short to be given pecuniary allowance.
If it were found that the boy would have been seriously injured rather than dead, then defendant should be liable for the boy’s loss of earning capacity and injury. Defendant should only be liable for the decedent’s probable future, which should be any conscious suffering found to have been the result of the shock.
These potential results are factual determinations that must be determined by the jury.