Tort Law


Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Utilities Cases

Brien Roche

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Utilities. 



See Va. Code § 56-5 stating triple damages recoverable for willful injury to property of public service company.

See Va. Code § 56-260.1 indicating that contract provisions exempting company from liability are unlawful.

See Va. Code § 56-261 setting forth certain duties of companies furnishing water or sewage facilities.

See Underground Utility Damage Prevention Act, Va. Code § 56-265.14 as to damage underground.

See Va. Code § 56-476 stating that telephone and telegraph companies cannot contract against their own negligence.

See Va. Code § 56-477 indicating that claimant may recover special damages, anguish and grief occasioned by negligence of telephone or telegraph company.


1994 C. & P. Tel. Co. v. Properties One, 247 Va. 136, 439 S.E.2d 369.

Property owner hired contractor to do excavation work and in course of doing so contractor cut utility line. Only evidence of negligence on part of contractor is failure to call Miss Utility. General rule is that owner who employs independent contractor is not liable for injuries to third persons caused by contractor’s negligence. Exceptions exist in cases of dangerous instrumentality and inherently dangerous work, work that is wrongful per se, work that is nuisance or work that is such that it would in the natural course of events produce injury unless special precautions are taken. C. & P. failed to bring its evidence within one of these exceptions in this case and as such negligence of contractor is not attributable to owner.

1988 C. & P. Tel. Co. v. APAC/Virginia, 236 Va. 492, 373 S.E.2d 927.

APAC damaged phone lines while excavating. Phone company need not prove exactly how damage occurred. Defendant was only contractor operating in area and evidence of loss of pressure in phone lines at that time sufficient to create jury issue.

1978 Richardson-Wayland Elec. Corp. v. VEPCO, 219 Va. 198, 247 S.E.2d 465.

Common carriers and other public service companies, including power companies may not contract against liability for breach of public duties.

1976 Chesapeake & O. Ry. v. Clifton, 216 Va. 858, 224 S.E.2d 317.

Railroad signed agreement with telephone company permitting it to run lines across its property with telephone company assuming all risks of loss or damage of any nature to said wire line crossing and appurtenances. Train derailed and wires were damaged. Railroad may exempt itself from liability by contract for negligence while not acting as common carrier.

1972 VEPCO v. Perry Eng’g, 212 Va. 785, 188 S.E.2d 104.

Contractor, while digging holes for C. & P., struck VEPCO cable. Mere fact that contractor was digging within VEPCO easement where underground lines have been laid does not require contractor to call VEPCO to locate its lines. Duty of contractor is to exercise reasonable care to locate lines.

1957 Flakne v. C. & P. Tel. Co., 199 Va. 31, 97 S.E.2d 650.

Plaintiff ran into guy wire attached to utility pole; plaintiff had prior exposure to existence of pole; contributory negligence as matter of law.

1944 C. & P. Tel. Co. v. Bullock, 182 Va. 440, 29 S.E.2d 228.

Plaintiff was employee of electric company which shared utility pole with phone company. Phone company had placed wire strand on pole without securing it firmly because additional work was to be done. Plaintiff was descending pole when his foot hit wire, wire moved and plaintiff knocked off balance and fell. No duty owed by defendant to plaintiff.

For more information on utilities see the pages on Wikipedia.

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