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APS Utility Liability


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.

Capitol Media Services reports 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 two people 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 a woman who occupied the home.

But Appellate Judge Paul McMurdie, writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, said that misreads the law. He said utilities can protect themselves against incidental damage, such as economic losses from power interruptions and even damage to equipment due to voltage fluctuations. But McMurdie said none of that shields a utility from what happens when its negligence in maintaining the electrical distribution system actually does what is alleged to have happened here: cause a fire that burns down a house.

Victor is originally from West Sacramento, California and has lived in Arizona for more than five years. He began his print journalism career in 2004 following his graduation from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Victor has been a reporter for the following daily newspapers: The Monterey County Herald, The Salinas Californian and the Reno Gazette-Journal, where he covered stories including agriculture, education and Latino community news. Victor has also served as a local editor for Patch, a national news organization with hyperlocal websites, in Carmichael, California in the Sacramento area. He also served as the editor for The New Vision, the newspaper for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which includes Yuma and La Paz counties. Victor lives in Somerton. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends and following most sports.