Homeowner Electrocuted By Live Power Line On His Property


Real Estate Expert

This case involves an upstate New York homeowner who passed away after being electrocuted by a live power line. The homeowner was driving home during a thunderstorm and didn’t realize that the line had gone down. The homeowner drove over the line and became electrocuted upon attempting to exit the vehicle. The power line in question was attached to a wooden power pole located directly on the homeowner’s property and owned by the homeowner. However, the homeowner had just moved to the property two weeks before the incident and was unaware that he owned this power pole and was unaware that he was responsible for it’s maintenance as well. It was alleged that the real estate agent did not disclose the homeowner’s responsibility for maintaining the pole. An expert in real estate was sought to discuss whether or not the real estate agent should have notified the homeowner of his responsibility to maintain the pole.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your experience as a real estate agent.
  • 2. What are best practices for informing purchasers about issues such as the one in this case?

Expert Witness Response E-014913

I have 13+ years of experience in real estate as both an appraiser and a broker in the Northeast.I have reviewed cases before regarding broker duties and standards of practice. There are several questions regarding where the responsibility lies in this case. Typically during a sale, the real estate agents in question and the buyer would have ordered a title insurance, and the title company would have searched and found that there were easements reflected on the property. What I see happen often is that agents do not thoroughly review these title reports because it is often simply assumed the utilities are going to be there and might not be of issue. The common scenario in a case like this is one of two things: either lack of disclosure in that the agent should have known about the utility pole on the property, or that they knew about it but did not disclose it to the buyer.

Expert Witness Response E-138374

I have never encountered a problem with private poles, but I have sold properties that have them. I would assume this is a large property and that the pole was not located close to the street. This is usually where I would expect to see poles privately owned. If the seller knew that it was his responsibility to maintain the pole, he should have addressed it in the seller disclosure. The buyer is usually given many opportunities to have professionals inspect the property, so the answer to this question would depend on the paperwork and conversations regarding suggested inspections. Further information regarding private poles might also be registered with the local municipality and/or with the utility company that services the property. I would like to hear if that was available. My opinion would depend on the answers to these questions.

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