FirstEnergy May Be Liable for Zapped Child

     (CN) – The mother of an 11-year-old who caught on fire after climbing into a high voltage electrical substation may pursue negligence claims, a federal judge ruled.
     On May 22, 2012, Connie Good’s 11-year-old daughter, referred to in court documents as C.G., was playing with her 9-year-old brother and a friend near the Birchwood Lakes substation, situated between their homes and a school bus stop in Dingmans Ferry, Pa.
     Though the substation is surrounded by a high fence topped with barbed wire, the gate is only about 6 feet high, the Pocono Record reported.
     After C.G. climbed over a chainlink fence to gain access to the substation, an arc of electricity ran through her body and she caught fire.
     C.G. received second- and third-degree electrical burns over 45 percent of her body including her neck, chest, back and arms.
     On Jan. 22, C.G.’s mother sued FirstEnergy Corp., which operates the substation through one of its regulated distribution companies, Metropolitan Edison Co., alleging that not all of the security fencing was 7 feet tall, as required by the National Electric Safety Code.
     Good’s federal complaint, filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, seeks more than $75,000 in damages on two counts: attractive nuisance and negligent installation, maintenance and inspection of the security fencing.
     FirstEnergy moved to dismiss in April, arguing that it does not own, control, operate, inspect or maintain the substation, and that Metropolitan Edison is the liable party since it holds the title to the property on which the substation resides.
     But Senior U.S. District Judge James Munley denied the motion on May 30.
     “Plaintiff claims that FirstEnergy has held itself out to be an active participant in the provision of electrical services through Met-Ed by actively reporting to and petitioning the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) on Met-Ed’s behalf,” Munley wrote, abbreviating the subsidiary’s name.
     “For example, over the past three years, FirstEnergy has been intimately involved in directing and obtaining approval for Met-Ed’s smart meter technology from the PUC,” Munley added. “Nowhere in its submissions with the PUC does FirstEnergy state that it is merely the parent and holding company of Met-Ed. At this stage in the litigation, plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that FirstEnergy occupied the land upon which the Birchwood Lakes Substation resides with the intent to control it through Met-Ed. Ergo, we will deny FirstEnergy’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s negligence claim.”
     The attractive nuisance claim also survived.
     “FirstEnergy contends that Met-Ed was the sole possessor of the land upon which the substation resided,” Munley wrote. “Because this argument mirrors FirstEnergy’s land possession argument above, the court’s prior analysis is equally applicable here. Therefore, we will deny defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s attractive nuisance claim.”

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