City of Starkville v. Harrison, 53270

Decision Date14 July 1982
Docket NumberNo. 53270,53270
Citation418 So.2d 51
PartiesCITY OF STARKVILLE, Mississippi v. Ken HARRISON and Teresa Harrison.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Gholson, Hicks & Nichols, John W. Crowell, Columbus, for appellant.

Stark & McAlpin, William D. Stark, Starkville, for appellees.

Before PATTERSON, C. J., WALKER, P. J., and DAN M. LEE, J.

DAN M. LEE, Justice, for the Court:

This is an appeal from the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County wherein Ken Harrison and Teresa Harrison, plaintiffs/appellees, recovered damages in the amount of $2700 from the City of Starkville, Mississippi (city), defendant/appellant, in an action predicated upon the city's negligence in connecting electrical service to the Harrison's vacant apartment. Following the connection of electrical power to the Harrison's apartment, a fire erupted destroying numerous items of personal property belonging to the Harrisons who had not completed their move into the apartment. From an adverse verdict and judgment the city appeals. We reverse.

Ken and Teresa Harrison were married on August 4, 1979. On August 1, 1979, they leased Apartment 5E at the Parkside Apartment Complex in Starkville, Mississippi. The couple began moving certain items into the apartment on Saturday, August 11, 1979. However, there was no plan to occupy the apartment until the following weekend. Most of the items moved into the apartment were gifts the couple had received in connection with their wedding.

On August 9, 1979, Ken Harrison called the City of Starkville Electric Department to inquire as to information regarding the connection of electrical service to the apartment. When Ken asked for a specific date on which the connection could be made, he was allegedly told that no specific date could be given due to the amount of connections requested at that time of year. Ken expressed his desire that the power be supplied by Friday, August 17, 1979, when his wife had planned to return to the apartment. Teresa Harrison prepared a check for the amount of the deposit and attached a note stating she would be at the apartment on Friday, August 17, 1979.

The power connection was evidently made on August 16, 1979, while the apartment was vacant. An eye on the stove was apparently in an on position and subsequently ignited boxes stacked on or near the stove. A similar situation had occurred in the city of Starkville in the summer of 1975.

According to city electric department officials and employees, electrical service was not connected in the absence of a specific date by a customer. Where a deposit was mailed in and no specific date requested, service was generally made on the date the deposit was received. Gwen Perkins, who prepared the meter order for the Harrisons, testified to the contrary. She asserted if a deposit by mail was received without a specific cut-on date, she withheld service until further notice by the customer. However, where specific orders accompanied the deposit, service was made on the date requested.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Harrisons and assessed their damages at $2700. Final judgment was entered accordingly.

I. Did the trial court err in failing to grant appellant's request for a peremptory instruction?

Electrical companies are required to exercise the highest degree of care in dealing with their product, which is a deadly agency. However, the degree of care does not contemplate that such companies become absolute insurers regardless of fault. Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power v. Clinton, 347 So.2d 348 (Miss.1977).

26 Am.Jur.2d, Electricity, Gas and Steam, section 105 (1966), states in part the general rule as to liability for defective wires or appliances beyond the control of the company supplying the electricity:

It is generally held that where the electric wires or other appliances which have caused injury are not owned or controlled by the company furnishing the power, such company is not liable for the damage sustained. This rule has been held applicable to injuries to the person or property of the consumer who owns and controls or maintains such wires or appliances, and to injuries to third persons or trespassers, including an employee of a consumer, though in the case of injuries to third persons a contrary result has been reached. It has been held that where current is...

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6 cases
  • Entergy Mississippi, Inc. v. Hayes
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • April 22, 2004
    ...duty of care in distributing electricity. Upton v. Magnolia Electric Power Assoc., 511 So.2d 939 (Miss.1987); City of Starkville v. Harrison, 418 So.2d 51 (Miss.1982); Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. Shepard, 285 So.2d 725 (Miss.1973). When a cause of danger is reasonably foreseeable cause......
  • Read v. Southern Pine Elec. Power Ass'n
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • November 12, 1987
    ...duty of care in distributing electricity. Upton v. Magnolia Electric Power Assoc., 511 So.2d 939 (Miss.1987); City of Starkville v. Harrison, 418 So.2d 51 (Miss.1982); Mississippi Power & Light Co. v. Shepard, 285 So.2d 725 (Miss.1973). When a cause of danger is reasonably forseeable caused......
  • Upton v. Magnolia Elec. Power Ass'n
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • August 19, 1987
    ...appliances before supplying electrical power where such poles, wires or appliances are controlled by the customer. City of Starkville v. Harrison, 418 So.2d 51, 53 (Miss.1982). Put another [U]nless the current is supplied with actual knowledge of such conditions, the responsibility of the c......
  • Hopkins v. Mississippi Valley Gas Co., No. 2002-CA-01185-COA.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Court of Appeals
    • February 24, 2004
    ...has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition. Upton v. Magnolia Elec. Power Ass'n, 511 So.2d 939 (Miss.1987); City of Starkville v. Harrison, 418 So.2d 51, 52-53 (Miss.1982). "Natural gas is an extraordinarily dangerous element, and those who are authorized to furnish it for use among the ......
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