Electrical explosion severely burns electrician
Catastrophic Injury, Construction
Los Angeles Superior Court
Plaintiff catastrophically injured in electrical explosion due to negligence by excavator subcontractor and general contractor.

FACTS: On October 5, 2015, subcontractor defendant Cross dug up an underground utility during excavation work on behalf of general contractor defendant PMC, breaking open the outer plastic conduit and exposing the interior lines. The Plaintiff, a 64 year-old electrician was asked by Cross to confirm the exposed utility was an abandoned (not live) low voltage communications line. After Plaintiff’s initial wand test was negative for power, he cut into the insulation of one of the lines intending to perform a second verification wire test. The line exploded blowing Plaintiff out of the trench. Even though both the subcontractor and general contractor both testified they believed it was a low voltage communications line, it turned out to be a 12,000 voltage SCE high power line.



Plaintiff conceded his comparative fault for cutting into the line, but argued as to Cross was negligent for not knowing what he dug up was an SCE high voltage line since he had the plans showing it ran underneath where he was excavating. Further, Cross violated state Dig Alert law by not having the SCE line properly marked before excavating. Finally, Cross was instructed by PMC superintendents to secure off the area around the exposed utility but failed to do so, inviting Plaintiff into the trench to check the line.

As to PMC, Plaintiff alleged PMC had superior knowledge of the existence and location of this SCE high voltage line. PMC had two sets of plans showing the SCE line ran directly below where PMC hired Cross to excavate on the date of the accident. PMC had a sewer/water line installed underneath this SCE line 2 months prior to the accident; and PMC through Dig Alert specifically had this SCE line marked months prior to the accident as part of its street improvement plan survey. Further, PMC breached its admitted duty to ensure Cross called Dig Alert before commencing excavation, and when Cross failed to do so, to do it themselves as the general contractor. Finally, PMC’s senior superintendent admitted he should not have walked away from the scene and delegated securing off the area to Cross before Plaintiff was invited into the trench as this was ultimately PMC’s responsibility.


Plaintiff was the primary, if not sole cause, of the accident by negligently cutting into the line. Plaintiff effectively admitted as much in post-accident statements including “that was stupidest thing I ever did” and “I should have known better.” Further, Plaintiff’s employer was a negligent contributing cause due to the failure to properly train Plaintiff on the potential safety risks the unearthed utility represented.

Claimed Injuries:

Burns over 40% of Plaintiff’s body with debridement and skin grafting procedures; related complications included acute renal and respiratory failure; five-week hospitalization followed by lengthy rehabilitation admission; multiple complications related to the burns including PTSD, bilateral cataract surgeries, chronic bronchitis/Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, hearing loss, aggravation of pre-existing chronic kidney disease and other co-morbidities including cardiovascular system as evidenced by a mild stroke 26 months post-accident.

The defense denied any causal relationship between the stroke, hearing loss, and aggravation of pre-existing kidney or cardiovascular disease as a result of the accident.


Plaintiff claimed total disability with loss of work life to at least age 70 and a life care plan for future medical needs over $3 million based largely on aggravation of chronic kidney disease which will lead to future dialysis, elevated cardiovascular risks, and shortened life expectancy.

Defense admitted Plaintiff was disabled due to his injuries but argued he would have stopped working by age 65 in any event thus no future wage loss. The defense life care planner pegged any future care needs at a present value figure of only $150,000.

Plaintiff in Intervention Wesco sought recovery of its nearly $500,000 worker’s compensation lien.

Result: Settlement

Plaintiff received a settlement totaling $3.081 million. His counsel negotiated a resolution of the Wesco comp lien. In exchange, for Wesco’s waived any credit rights as to Plaintiff’s net third party recovery in his pending worker’s compensation case, and further agreed Plaintiff had the right to seek all future comp benefits, including open medical care and permanent disability awards. Plaintiff’s counsel

estimates the combined value of the third-party settlement on open worker’s comp case to be over $4.1 million.