Court rules utilities liable when negligence causes death, property damage

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Arizona utilities can’t legally shield themselves from being sued when their negligence kills or harms people or destroys property, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. 

An attorney for Arizona Public Service had argued that its tariffs — the rules that govern its relationship with customers — shield it from ordinary negligence. And that, said attorney David Gaona, precluded Chao Xie and Yit Kiue Szeto from seeking damages from APS after a fire allegedly caused by negligent maintenance of power lines, destroyed a home they owned in Maricopa County. 

That same tariff, Gaona argued, also precluded a lawsuit by Lydia Briones who occupied the home. 

But Appellate Judge Paul McMurdie, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said that misreads the law. 

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